So you’re coming to Paddlefest—that’s great! But if you’re new, you may need a little guidance to help navigate the process and make the most of your experience. So here’s your very own guide to what you can expect at Slave River Paddlefest!
Mark Your Calendar
Slave River Paddlefest is always held on August long weekend, which means
this year’s event the upcoming event will take place August 4th through August 7th, 2023. Some important dates to keep in mind include:
Head over to our Schedule page to see everything that’s going on during Paddlefest.
Paddlefest has a variety of activities and events which take place at several different locations.
You can view a map of Fort Smith with all of the Paddlefest locations highlighted for you over on our Map page. There you’ll also find a link to open the map in Google Maps on your phone for a fully interactive experience with directions and navigation.
Transportation between the festival locations is not provided by Paddlefest. However, you can usually find another participant who will let you carpool.
Important Notes & Rules
Registration with a Paddler Pass is required if you want to participate in any water-based activities at Paddlefest. The only exception are the Intro-to-Awesome Raft and Duo Rides.
We offer clinics so participants can work with instructors to build their paddling skills. The clinics are offered separately from the main festival events for an additional fee and are limited in capacity.
You can add clinics to your paddler registration at any time by editing your registration. However, your participation isn’t guaranteed as clinics may already be full. We will confirm which clinics you are registered for via email, and we’ll add you to a wait list for those that are already full.
There are a few free clinics which are aimed at beginners and are mandatory for those who haven’t paddled before. You cannot use any equipment provided by the Fort Smith Paddling Club until completing the beginner paddling clinic. This is automatically added to your registration if you indicate that you’re a new paddler.
Note that all paid clinics are payable by cash or cheque (made out to Fort Smith Paddling Club) on-site at the beginning of the course, unless otherwise noted.
Paddling & Safety Gear
It’s best to bring your own PFD, paddling gear, and boat if possible. During much of the festival we have gear available to paddlers thanks to our partners and sponsors, including the Fort Smith Paddling Club. This gear is not available to rent, instead it is shared among paddlers who don’t have their own gear for certain events.
Paddlers will be asked to complete a wet exit before using closed boats such as whitewater kayaks with spraydecks. If you will be paddling for the first time at Paddlefest, then we ask that you attend the First-Timers Introduction to Kayaking clinic. Simply add the clinic to your paddler registration to attend for free.
Please double check whether you will need to have your own gear for instructional clinics.
Respect the Pelicans
The Slave River is home to a unique colony of pelicans whose nesting grounds are located on the islands of the Mountain Portage Rapids, near the main festival site. During the spring and summer, these islands are a protected area and closed to human activity. As such, we ask participants to observe the following:
If you’re looking for a ride up or have an extra seat for someone, you can coordinate a ride-share with people using this Google Sheet:
How to get to Fort Smith and where to stay.
What, where, & when activities are happening at Paddlefest.
Instructional clinics are here to help you build your skills.
For those not paddling, you can always join as a spectator.
Take a look at the colourful pictures of past events.
Get directions and see all of the festival sites around Fort Smith.
Still have questions? Look no further than our FAQ.