The Stonycreek River will become a whitewater mecca for kayakers, canoeists and rafters as they gather for the Stonycreek Rendezvous Friday through Sunday.
Sponsored by the Benscreek Canoe Club, the event will be based at Greenhouse Park near Tire Hill.
The event will emphasize a lot of recreation, races, whitewater rafting, musical entertainment and a kayaking rodeo.
The Rendezvous is expected to draw boaters and rafters from across the region and from neighboring states to enjoy one of the best whitewater rivers in the eastern United States.
Over 1,000 whitewater enthusiasts are expected to recreate, play games, and relax and socialize during the rendezvous.
According to Craig Rosage, club president, the number of participants keep growing each year.
“Our response is greater than ever,” Rosage said. “We try to tie our festival into not just the boaters but also keep ourselves tied into the community as well.”
Club Secretary Richard Bloom of Ebensburg pointed to three races that will entice experienced boaters.
“We open up Friday evening with a downriver sprint race from Carpenter’s Park to Greenhouse Park,” he said.
Saturday will feature the wild Boater-X race and a Whitewater Rodeo.
“We will have a new five-mile race on Sunday called Stony Canyon Down River race, which will run through some challenging Class II and Class IV rapids,” Bloom said. “It’s some pretty serious water and we reserve the right to disqualify any inexperienced people.”
The race starts at the ball field in Hollsopple and gets underway with a mass start at 11 a.m.
“As boaters funnel through the canyon, one of he best places to see some action is at the set of rapids we call Showers,” Bloom said. “It’s easily accessible from Rout 601 near the Foustwell Bridge.”
Rosage says he has been contemplating the canyon race for years because participants have been asking for it.
“The more boaters who come to paddle the Stony Canyon the more demand we’ve had,” he said. “The canyon is a perfect layout for this kind of event, with a drop-pool gradation to the river it allows a brief separation between the 12 named rapids which allows for enough room between competitors.
The Stonycreek’s rapids are rated from Class I (beginner) to Class V (expert).
To ensure adequate water levels, the release valve at the Quemahoning Dam will be open each day of Rendezvous.
“They begin Friday and releases for Saturday and Sunday begin at 7 a.m. and should hit the canyon put-in by 10 a.m.,” Bloom said.
The valve provides season-long water to enjoy whitewater sports. Bloom emphasized that as more paddlers find out about Rendezvous, it is drawing in more whitewater enthusiasts from other states.
“As people research our water release dates online, they come here from as far away as Michigan and Illinois to tackle the challenge,” Bloom said.
One of Rendezvous’ highlights is Saturday’s Freestyle Rodeo competition at Stonycreek Whitewater Park. The event starts at 2 p.m. and is appropriate for all skill levels.
“It’s a chance for participants to demonstrate their skills and do some flips and spins,” Bloom said. “Spectators have a good vantage point to view the action at the park.”
There will be a variety of vendors on hand who will offer boating gear and food.
The musical lineup will feature Thornbush on Friday.
The bands performing Saturday are Paint Creek Pickers, Music Mike and the West Hills All-Stars.
“The music is fantastic this year,” Rosage said.
SurfSUP Adventures will offer stand-up paddleboard demonstrations at Whitewater Park and allow people to try it with some instruction.
A paddleboard is similar to a large surfboard.
“We have tried to make it a point to keep Rendezvous a family-oriented event with activities for children,” Bloom said. “There is a beautiful playground at Greenhouse Park and we will have a kids pavilion that will feature a lot of things to keep kids occupied.”
The pavilion will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For an alternative outing, Coal Tubin’ of Johnstown will offer fully guided raft and inflatable kayak floats beginning in Hollsopple and ending at Greenhouse Park.
Owner Chad Gontkovic said each excursion is $50.
“We provide everything,” he said. “It’s a great way to get a group of friends together and see the beauty and feel the excitement in the canyon.”
Reservations are required and may be made by calling 243-3286.
Not into racing? That’s OK. Hang out at Showers and watch the carnage as all of the boaters get funneled down through that one narrow shoot. The race will continue on down through the canyon and will finish at the Carpenters Park bridge.
Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.