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Book Release: 
The Story of FIBArk

Author: Donna Rhoads

The FIBArk Story is the history and record of whitewater paddling on the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado from 1949 to 2023.


The FIBArk Story is the history and record of whitewater paddling on the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado and the evolution of the sport in America. The History is in decade chapters, each depicting the festival period and accomplishments. The Record includes lists of its organizers, events, participants, results, and celebrated individuals who have supported FIBArk.


The FIBArk Story is a compilation of the history and records of the FIBArk Whitewater Festival held every year since 1949 in Salida, Colorado. The festival began as a bet between early competitors to paddle down the Arkansas River from Salida to Cañon City, Colorado, a feat involving a 56-mile river race at the peak of the spring run-off. The first race was held the third week of June, a tradition now into its 75 year! The 1949 Arkansas River Race attracted boaters from Europe, who came to Salida to compete and, in so doing, introduced paddling techniques to our local boaters. This is a story of camaraderie around the world and the growth of whitewater paddling as a sport in America. It is also a story about Salida - its citizens and friends who have embraced, promoted and preserved this unique festival of events called FIBArk, First in Boating on the Arkansas.

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About the Author

Donna Rhoads and her husband, John, became enthralled with FIBArk back in the 1990s when the FIBArk Board of Directors put on elaborate fundraisers and a fun and unique whitewater festival. While working as Pool Supervisor of the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, Donna was introduced to local kayakers as they trained and held roll sessions, and in 1995, known as sort of an organizer-type, Donna was encouraged to join the FIBArk Board as Assistant Race Director. The rest, as they say, is history. Donna served on the board for a total of nine years, was Commodore in 1997, and has remained active as FIBArk’s Historian ever since. John and Donna live in Salida with their two red heelers, Redmond and Eureka.

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