Every summer, the Wabash Riverfest unites the Greater Lafayette community in a celebration of the longest free-flowing river in the eastern United States. Join us for a day of exciting activities, learning, and adventure as we explore and appreciate Indiana’s magnificent Wabash River.
Riverfest is sponsored by the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation (WREC), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering environmental and economic prosperity in the Greater Lafayette Region and the Wabash River corridor. The Wabash River is the lifeblood of the Greater Lafayette community, offering immense potential for recreation, aesthetic beauty, and vital economic development.
The voyageur canoes featured in Riverfest’s races are replicas of historical canoes used by Native American tribes and French Voyageurs in North America from the late 1600s through the 1700s. These canoes, made from lightweight, sturdy, and water-resistant birch bark, played a significant role in the daily lives of Native American tribes and the fur trade.
Our replica voyageur canoes honor the rich history of the Wabash River and the Native American tribes and French Voyageurs who depended on these remarkable vessels for trade and transportation. Participate in the Riverfest races and experience the thrill of paddling through the waters that hold centuries of stories and traditions.
Riverfest was the inspired creation of the late Chuck Wei, who saw the Wabash River’s potential as a focal point for the local community. He presented his idea to the Wabash River Parkway Commission and volunteered to lead the first event in 2001, featuring exciting 42-foot dragon boat races. Since then, Riverfest has become an annual tradition held on the second Saturday of July.
Over the years, Riverfest has evolved, with voyageur canoes replacing the dragon boats to better connect the event to the region’s 17th-century fur trading history. The smaller capacity of the voyageur canoes also made it easier for teams of nine paddlers to participate.
The establishment of WREC led to the Parkway Commission joining its efforts and focusing on river awareness and education. WREC inherited Riverfest, and in 2009, purchased two new voyageur canoes for the boat race. These canoes were named in honor of Riverfest founder Chuck Weis and dedicated Parkway Commission member Paula Woods, recognizing their immense contributions to the event and river tours program.
Wabash Riverfest now serves as a celebration of the Wabash River and its potential for the Greater Lafayette community. The event highlights WREC’s riverfront development and watershed quality initiatives while providing an informational fair for organizations with related missions to educate and raise awareness about their efforts to improve the quality of life in the Greater Lafayette area.
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