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James Byrd, a lifelong kayaker, survived four dry years of college in Helena, Montana and then promptly moved to Boise, Idaho. He was drawn by the region's whitewater, including its crown jewel, the North Fork of the Payette River. Now, he's inviting the world to experience the river with the North Fork Championship, a whitewater festival in Crouch, Idaho this June 7–9.
The NFC begins Thursday night in Boise with a whitewater film festival and athlete introductions. The event, complete with a sponsor village, live music, and food, moves to Crouch through Friday and Saturday. A shuttle service will move spectators to the competition venues.
Despite low snow conditions across the country last winter, Byrd says the North Fork is ready to challenge the boaters. "It gets big and exciting every year at this time," he says. "We got pounded with late storms that packed the high mountains and continually drain off."
Friday features an expert-level competition through a lower section of the river. Five wild cards will qualify to join the field of 30 invited athletes, a list that includes pros such as Tyler Bradt, Ben Brown, Ryan Lucas, and more. (See the full list here.) "The caliber of paddlers that's coming here is phenomenal," Byrd says, "and they're mixed in with these talented locals that pound nails on the weekdays and run the river whenever they can." The title goes to the paddler with the best time through a slalom course on Jacob's Ladder, a Class V rapid. "It's by far the hardest rapid," Byrd says. "Spectators will see people paddling through awesome whitewater as hard as they can."
Visit northforkchampionship.com for more information.