The Wood River Land Trust thinks you and your river should get better acquainted and they’re throwing a party on the Fourth of July to help you do just that. The 2nd Annual Wood River Land Trust RiverFest will take place at the Draper Wood River Preserve and Lions Park immediately following this year’s Fourth of July parade in Hailey.

“It’s all about the community and connecting with the special places we have here like the river,” said Mike McKenna of the Wood River Land Trust. “There are so many people in our community that forget about our river and what an amazing asset it is. RiverFest was created to help remind and connect people with the Big Wood and the beauty of the open spaces around it like the Draper Wood River Preserve.”

Founded in 1994 by 10 valley locals, the Wood River Land Trust protects and restores land, water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in the Wood River Valley and surrounding areas. Working with both private land owns, public entities and other non-profit organizations, the Land Trust now protects over 25,000 acres, including 14 preserves like the Draper Wood River in Hailey, the Howard Preserve in Bellevue and the Box Car Bend Preserve in mid-valley.

“One of the things I love about  the Land Trust is that we’re not just interested in protecting natural lands and waterways for only the plant and animal species, another huge part of our mission is about providing access and maintaining historical usage so people can enjoy these lands responsibly and sustainably now and for the future,”  Mike said. “Events like RiverFest give the Land Trust an opportunity to reconnect the valley’s residents with some of their greatest natural resources.”

As part of the Home Rivers Initiative with Trout Unlimited, the Land Trust helped commission a recently completed assessment of the Big Wood River and the findings were a bit disconcerting. More than 50% of the river has been altered by man at some point in time and the impacts of all that change, as well as events like the recent wildfires, are starting to have negative impacts on various aspects of the river’s health, especially its trout populations.  “The river needs our help now more than ever,” Mike said.

And that’s where the RiverFest comes in. “We have a very passionate and strong community and, as has been proven time and time again, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we all collectively put our hearts into it. That’s what RiverFest is really all about,” Mike said, adding that the City of Hailey, Blaine County, The Chamber and several local businesses are helping make the event happen.

This year’s RiverFest promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s popular inaugural event.  While a good snowpack may have the river moving a bit too swiftly to play in it much, there will be plenty to do along its banks. There will be a variety of food and craft vendors, as well as free ice cream, and a free raffle for a Stand up Paddle Board, including a lesson from Sun Valley’s own SUP superstar, Danny Walton. New for this year will include the Sawtooth Brewery Beer Garden and all kinds of games and activities for kids. There will also be self-guided nature tour through Draper Wood River Preserve and an information booth for those wanting to learn more about how they can help save the land and water of our amazing home. RiverFest will close out with a free hour and half long concert from rising country music star Jessica Lynn, who will also be performing the National Anthem to kick off the parade.

“This year’s event is really going to be a lot of fun,” Mike said. “The addition of a performer like Jessica Lynn and some of our other features will help RiverFest be that perfect Fourth of July afternoon event, bridging the gap between the parade and the rodeo and fireworks. You can reconnect with the river, listen to some great music and enjoy your friends and family. Sounds like the perfect afternoon to me.”

RiveFest runs from roughly 1 pm to 5pm on July 4th. For more information about RiverFest, or if you’re interested in volunteering, please call Mike at 788.3947.

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