Kayakers invited to test the rapids on the Cuyahoga River April 24

Cuyahoga Falls Fest happens in city's downtown

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Eric Bartl  paddles through whitewater conditions on the Cuyahoga River at a past Cuyahoga Falls Fest event.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Kayakers will have a chance to test the rapids of the Cuyahoga River later this month.

Cuyahoga Falls Fest will happen April 24 from noon to 5 p.m. on the section of the river that runs next to the city's downtown. The event is sponsored by Sheraton Suites Akron/ Cuyahoga Falls.

"The Cuyahoga Falls Fest is a paddle fest for all types of paddlers," said Don Howdyshell, the event's organizer. "Individuals are encouraged to form groups with their peers and then choose which sections to paddle based on their experience and gear."

There will be several locations where kayakers can gather, put their vessel in the water and head out on an adventure where they can try out their skills in rapids that have varying degrees of difficulty.

Class I rapids are the easiest and Class VI rapids are the most difficult.

Devon Chalfant steers his kayak through a bend in the Cuyahoga River at a past Cuyahoga Falls Fest event. This year's event is April 24.

The Upper Gorge of the river (near the Sheraton) is an area that offers Class IV and V rapids. Tinker's Creek has Class IV and V rapids, East/West Falls Black River has Class V rapids, the river's Lower Gorge has Class II and III rapids, and the river's Water Trail has Classes I-III rapids.

"Our focus will always be the Cuyahoga’s Upper Gorge behind the Sheraton, but paddlers should go wherever the water is optimal for their skill levels on the day of the event," Howdyshell said.

The event was previously a kayak race, and the contest in 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19. Howdyshell said he has since decided to discontinue the competition because it is challenging to get an "optimal water flow" in the river on a certain day.

Falls Fest has, Howdyshell said, "changed gears" to promote all sections of the Cuyahoga River and other whitewater areas in the region. 

In past years, vendors have set up tents in designated areas. That is not happening this year, and Howdyshell said, "For now, our fest vendors are all the new businesses, breweries/bars, and restaurants in downtown Cuyahoga Falls."

If the weather cooperates, Howdyshell hopes that about 20 kayakers participate, and he encourages spectators to stop by and check out the activity.

"We want to give them some viewable excitement while they’re visiting Downtown Cuyahoga Falls," Howdyshell said.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.