Bill Block Named 2015 FIBArk Commodore

Bill Block, longtime Salida river runner and business owner, will serve as the 2015 FIBArk Commodore. Block was selected by FIBArk organizers for his pioneering sprit and influence upon the early days of commercial whitewater rafting in the valley.

The 67th FIBArk Whitewater Festival presented by Eddyline Brewing is slated for June 18-21 when hundreds of athletes and thousands of spectators come to historic downtown Salida and Riverside Park. The tradition of a FIBArk Commodore dates back to 1954 when they were responsible for organizing the boat races and attracting international competitors. In recent years the Commodore has been chosen as an honorary position given to a member of the community.

Block, a New York native, first came to the Salida area to attend school at Western State College in Gunnision in 1970. That same year he began teaching in the ski school at Monarch Mountain, something that continued 29 years.

During the summer Bill and his friends remained adventurous and began running portions of the Arkansas River. In 1980 Block and his river running friends founded Independent Whitewater, one of the first commercial rafting outfitters to run trips on the Arkansas River. He and his crew guided some of the initial trips through Browns Canyon and were responsible for naming some of the original rapids.

By 1985 IW was taking more than 500 trips down Browns and the rafting business was starting to flourish. His company was noted for running Seidel’s Suck Hole and Twin Falls, creating longer half-day trips for customers. The operation was located in Poncha Springs along with a hand full of other outfitters before moving to a location near Fisherman’s Bridge later.

Block exited the whitewater rafting business in 1999 and the current owners relocated the operation to its present day location near Big Bend. Over the years Bill was a two-time FIBArk downriver raft champion and participated in the Tenderfoot relay races and other events.

In 1988 Block founded Monarch Snowmobile Tours to provide additional recreational opportunities for winter-time tourists. After more than 20 years, Block sold the business several years ago. Block remains a partial owner at the Monarch Mountain ski area along with several other locals who joined the investment group in 2004.

Over the years, it’s estimated Bill’s companies took more than 80,000 customers either rafting or snowmobiling and hired hundred of guides. Many of the guides and early friends continue to remain in the Salida area today.

“I’ve got so many people that I can say they used to work for me,” Block said. “When you look around town, there area a lot and most of the people came to work because they loved it.”

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