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Packrafters Party in Paradise

American Packrafting Association 6th Annual Roundup
Words By: Marilyne Marchand-Gouin
Cover Photo: Jacob Moon

How often do you see five paddlers, all paddling individual crafts, pile up with all their boats and gear inside a regular sedan and drive off to go paddling together? At the American Packrafting Association (APA) annual roundup, such is a sight is not uncommon at all! Packrafts and packrafters, once a rarity on American rivers, are starting to be seen more regularly on local runs around the country and in gnarlier whitewater! Nevertheless, packrafters still get a lot of questions on their boats, ranging from their weight, which kayakers usually envy on portages, to their whitewater worthiness. A group of packrafters taking out at a crowded river access point usually elicits a lot of attention!

Photo: Ron Winsett

Photo: Dan Ransom

An annual gathering of around 120 packrafters, the American Packrafting Association annual roundup is an opportunity to get on the rivers with groups comprised exclusively of packrafters from all around the country (and sometimes the world!). Because of their light weight, gear storage ability and portability, packrafts are extraordinary tools to explore the backcountry and remote rivers. However, before heading on remote rivers, packrafters usually need to hone their whitewater skills on more accessible runs. The annual roundup gives packrafters the opportunity to do exactly that, with the opportunity to participate in skills clinic, organized outings and swift water safety classes.

Photo: Ron Winsett

Photo: Rachel Ross

Photo: Dan Ransom

The 2019 edition of the roundup was held at the Hot Springs campground in Idaho, next to the South Fork of the Payette river. Packrafters from around the country (and Australia!) were able to enjoy the world-class whitewater of the area. Stretches of river suitable for all skill levels were within a short drive including some hike-in sections perfect for packrafts! Held over 4 days, the schedule included trip presentations, a film festival, a fundraising auction and raffle with a ton of cool gear (including a very-sought-after dry top from Immersion Research) and a lot of river and social time to meet other packrafters. The event is the main fundraiser for the American Packrafting Association, whose mission is to promote packrafting as a safe and exciting way to enjoy and protect America’s wild rivers and wild places. 2019 projects for the association included, amongst others, the production of packrafting educational videos and actions to protect the Arctic Refuge. Paddlers that are new to the sport and attend the roundup for the first time usually can't believe how friendly and inclusive the event is. Everyone went home with great memories and a new contact list of paddling buddies.

Photo: Jacob Moon

Photo: Jacob Moon

Photo: Ron Winsett

The area was so wonderful for paddling that the APA decided to hold the event in the same location in July 2020. With a hot spring right across the road from the campsite and such exciting whitewater, I can't wait to go back and get to paddle with new packrafters!

Photo: Mary Price

Photo: Rachel Ross

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