Celebrating the Animas: Revitalized Animas River Days readies for run-off

Spring runoff hasn’t even begun, but plans for a revitalized and expanded Animas River Days are already flowing.

“Animas River Days is happening,” said Aaron Kimple, head of this year’s Animas River Days organization effort. Kimple, who is also the executive director of the local river-conservation group, Animas Riverkeepers, said this year’s event will take place June 1-3. Unlike in years past, he said the focus will change this year to involve more of the community, making it a river festival rather than solely a whitewater event. “The theme this year is ‘Celebrate the Animas,’” said Kimple, adding that a public call for logo design will go out soon. “The big push is to try to make it more of a community event, with activities up and down the Animas through Durango.”

Such activities will include everything from the traditional whitewater rodeo and slalom races and ever-popular boat parade and after-party to a pancake breakfast, fly fishing events, river clean-up and possibly a running race along the Animas River Trail. “We are trying to find other ways to expand into the community,” said Kimple, adding that he would like to see it build over the years to a Snowdown-like format. “What we’d like to have is businesses come to us with

ideas, and we’ll include them in the schedule.”

Kimple approached Four Corners Riversports owner and longstanding sponsor of the event, Andy Corra, after last year’s Animas River Days. “Andy said he just couldn’t handle putting it on by himself every year, so we said we’d like to help out,” said Kimple.

Animas River Days was a natural fit for Animas Riverkeepers, formerly Friends of the Animas River, because the group is dedicated to protecting the biological, sociological and cultural well-being of the Animas River and its watershed, he said.

“It will be like Animas River Days’ of past but with an educational bent,” he said. “By holding a celebration of the river, it reminds us all to appreciate what a great resource it is and that we are lucky to have this right in our town.”

Animas Riverkeepers and Four Corners are joined in their efforts this year by Duranglers, Backcountry Experience and Southwest Whitewater, all of which will spearhead different events. “The Animas River really extends well beyond the boating community, it’s used

by everyone from fly fishermen to people walking and biking the Animas River Trail. It’s a resource that flows through the heart of the community.”

Corra said he is happy to see some new life being breathed into the event, which was started by the store’s original owner, Nancy Wiley, nearly 25 years ago. “I like to see the event keep going,” he said. “It was a pretty solo affair for a few years.”

Corra also said he is happy to see the latest effort to create a community affair, which harkens back to Animas River Days’ early years. “Twenty years ago, it had more of a hometown feel,” he said. “Everyone just went out and got in the hole. No one was intimidated about making a fool of themselves because the pros were there.”

In the’90s and early ’00s, Animas River Days changed course, drawing high-profile freestyle names like Eric Jackson, Eric Southwick and Tanya Shuman. However, as competition from bigger venues and bigger purses increased, Animas River Days repositioned itself once again as a local gig. “The pro thing really changed the feel of things for a few years,” Corra said. “I’m hoping after this year, it takes on a life of its own.”

Kimple said he sees no reason why this won’t be the case. “All the general infrastructure is already in place, so it should be a long-term, self-supporting situation,” he said. “We would really like to see this build back to what it used to be, a local, community event.”

– Missy Votel