Rafting belongs amongst the oldest human activities in Slovakia. This is particularly true in mountainous northwestern Slovakia, where in the past forests dominated, thus providing more than sufficient wood. The river Váh played a very important role in the development of rafting in our region. Although the depth of the river bed was variable, the Váh provided very favourable conditions for rafting. There was a plentiful supply of wood and virtually every family contained at least one dogger. The first settlers using the river as a means of transport date from around the 10th century and it is feasable that they were already using rafts to transport timber along with other rafting activities. Unfortunately, we do not possess any preserved relics from these times. However, it is assumed that the original raft consisted of three to four trunks joined with strips of bark. It was guided by two men with long wooden masts.
From the 12th century, rafting developed rapidly. Gradually, the workers in this field began to be distinguished by their specific activities. Their work was dependent on the river Váh. When there was a lack of water, they utilized a wooden dam, and when rafts were supposed to float, the water was released. By the 17th century, these dams were constructed of stone. A significant reduction in rafting occurred after the construction and growth of railways in the late 19th century and especially in the early 20th century, when timber, but also passengers and goods were transported by train. In Žilina, rafts were concentrated in the "ports", for example in Považský Chlmec, near Mojšova Lúčka, near Hričov and on the river Kysuca by Kysucké Nové Mesto. Považský Chlmec gained particular importance, as here, at the confluence of the Váh and Kysuca, became a focal point of rafting activity.
Transporting goods, wood and people
They were transporting not only wood but also people and goods, the consequence of such activity being Považský Chlmec becoming a river port in the 17th century. Contemporary documents mention a popular pub in this area, which was called the rafting inn. Other commodities, such as salt, leather, furs, honey, oil pedlars products, food extracts, all kinds of sheep cheese (especially bryndza), fish and many more were also transported by rafts. From the surroundings of Žilina, the rafts transported the renowned Žilina cabbage, forest raspberries from the Rajecká valley, skinner products from Rajec, and excellent sheep cheese from Varín, Techová and Čičmany.
The local raftsmen focused on wood transportation, as there were certainly sufficient wood processors who required it for their production. When a cellulose processing plant was founded in Žilina, it immediately became both the dominant purchaser of wood and also a kind of saviour of the rafting tradition in Žilina and its surrounding.
The construction of dams after World War II prevented rafting downriver, a tradition only sporadically maintained today by Strečno‘s raftsmen in a short section between Vrútky and Strečno. They transport tourists in an idyllic setting which bisects the two castles.
Source: M. Mrva and TIO Žilina (researched from academic literature)