Paddling enthusiasts will soon converge on the Puntledge River for the 10th annual Puntledge River Paddle Festival.
Hosted by the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society, (VIWPS), the event will run from May 23 to 25 this year.
“This year’s festival has shuttles to the river, a downriver race on the middle section of the Puntledge, the ever-popular throw bag contest, a river obstacle course, river SUP (stand up paddleboarding) demos, a raffle, movies and music,” says festival organizer Dave Prothero.
Camping will again be available at Maple Pool Campsite, (4685 Headquarters Rd. in Courtenay) which is nestled next to the take-out of the river.
The festival usually attracts 140 to 150 paddlers from all over B.C., Alberta and the United States, according to Prothero, who points out the festival appeals to kayakers of all skill levels.
“That is the great thing about the Puntledge; there are sections for each group,” explains Prothero. “However, paddlers need to have their own gear and we run a safety meeting and lead trips for people unfamiliar with the river.
“Also, the river itself is very unique, with great playboating and a upper section of harder whitewater above.”
Non-kayakers looking for some excitement can sign up for guided rafting trips down the Puntledge by Campbell River’s Destiny River Adventures. Visit www.destinyriver.com, or call 250-287-4800 for more information.
Puntledge River Paddle Festival organizers work with BC Hydro to ensure high water flows down the river during the festival. Also, VIWPS co-ordinates with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to hold the event at the same time as the Puntledge River Hatchery’s chinook salmon smolt release for a better success rate of the out-migrating fish reaching the ocean.
Prothero adds the Puntledge Paddle Festival is different from others held in the province due to the unique nature of the Puntledge River, with its easy access, river features and because the river runs through the City of Courtenay.
“The Comox Valley is a pretty amazing place,” continues Prothero. “The sunny weather, snow-capped mountains and being so close to a great host of restaurants in the downtown core makes it a unique paddling destination.”
For more information, visit www.surfkayak.org or check out the group’s Facebook page, Vancouver Island White Water Paddling Society.