Reggae on the River

Weekend of Reggae Fun in Humboldt County

Garberville, CA- Happy Reggae! The oft heard jubilatory mantra echoed and reverberated throughout “The Bowl”, a natural 360-degree amphitheater that played host this weekend to the 34th Annual Reggae on the River (ROTR). It would be a free-spirited adventure.

The 2018 ROTR, presented by High Times in conjunction with the local Mateel Community Center. High Times, a New York–based magazine that has been pushing for marijuana legalization since 1974 would be aiming its efforts toward helping refocus and re-energize the long running festival toward profitability. Mateel Community Center has been the recent focus of reported attention and controversy.  Our mission was simple, enjoy the music, vibes and as it turns out, one hell of a sweet camping spot on the Eel River. Happy Reggae!

Peering off Highway 101, we slowly made our way down to a tent city bursting with symbolic colors and flags representing Ethiopia and the Rasta Lion. Haile Selassie, was an emperor of Ethiopia who the Rastafarians worship as the Messiah. Rastafarians believe that Selassie’s lineage can be traced back to the Israelite Tribe of Judah, which itself used the lion as a symbol. Reggae on the River is a wildly colorful event in many ways.

Camping on Eel River


Due to our late arrival, the biggest challenge we faced was finding a camping spot among the tightly packed masses along the river and tucked into the redwoods. After some searching, we struck camping gold. An island in the middle of river overlooking “The Bowl” was vacant. Wiggling through the masses, then fording the slippery river with all our gear was well worth it. Located on the beach, we enjoyed easy access to the venue entrance and a short walk to South Beach, making it the ideal spot.

Atmosphere is Laid-Back

Sitting on Eel River

In Humboldt, things are a little more free-spirited and ROTR embodies the throwback hippie spirit. As expected, heavy ganja smoke billows everywhere here 24/7, so expect a very laid back crowd. We didn’t detect any problems. Music kicked off each day at 2:45 in the afternoon as campers avoided the summer heat by chillin’ on the Eel River. Clear, cool and slow moving, it was the perfect remedy for just about anything that ails you. Those who opted out of clothing, proudly floated and swam by in their birthday suits. We appreciated the free-spirited nature. Happy Birthday!

Eel River

Food & Drink

An abundance of food vendors were arranged in the venue as well as alongside the campgrounds. Options covered everything from Jamaican and African based foods to more standard festival fare. Our taste buds were happy with delicious Jamaican Jerk Chicken and some smoked salmon Killa Dilla we noshed on. Cold craft beers were just $6.

Ambassador Lounge

Reggae on the River Ambassador Lounge

An upgrade to Ambassador tickets receives our nod of approval. The atmospheric lounge tent sits just to the left of the stage. Providing a bar, ultra comfy couches, air-conditioned restrooms, it offers a great temporary retreat from the heat. After grooving with the crowd, fans ducked into the lounge to refuel, roll and relax. A fun place to network, mingle and meet new friends.

The Music

Reggae on the River

Outside of Bob Marley & The Wailers and a few other artists, our reggae knowledge is rudimentary at best. Naturally, The Original Wailers were one of our highlights. We enjoyed all the bands, taking special note of Katastro!, Casa Rasta Sound and the evening’s crowd rejuvenating headliner, Iration.

Notes: Don’t expect much sleep at ROTR.  Long after the official festivities concluded, massive parties with concert level volume raged all around until around 6:00 AM.

Our Takeaway

While the free spirited and free wheeling Reggae on the River may not suit everyone, for the open and adventurous, it’s nearly impossible to not have an incredibly positive-filled weekend of fun in beautiful Humboldt County.

Appreciating the opportunity to catch some new music in a magnificent setting and make a few new friends, we look forward to returning in 2019. Happy Reggae!

Festival Coverage?

Now scheduling travel & destination coverage for 2023.
We go where we ♥, we love where we go!
Live light, travel light, spread the light.
Get in touch here

Roseville Today is locally owned & community supported.
We have NO AFFILIATION with print, politics or corporate media.
(20+ Years Strong!)