Where to Roll: Great Whitewater Parks in United States

Whether you pre­fer the pad­dle strokes from a white­wa­ter kayak, a raft, or you stand-up instead, the dif­fer­ent white­wa­ter cours­es around the U.S. can pro­vide many avenues for enjoy­ment. Whether it’s your first-time front surf­ing or you’re an expe­ri­enced pad­dler, all the best white­wa­ter parks across the coun­try also inhab­it adven­ture-rich sur­round­ings, lend­ing fun on both land and water.

U.S Nation­al White­wa­ter Cen­ter, Char­lotte, North Carolina
Home to the world’s largest man-made, recir­cu­lat­ing white­wa­ter riv­er, the U.S. Nation­al White­wa­ter Cen­ter (USNWC) pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for every type of pad­dler. Kayaks, canoes and guid­ed rafts can enjoy the class II-IV rapids and chan­nels at the USNWC, and flat water is eas­i­ly accessed from the adja­cent Cataw­ba Riv­er. Out­side of the water, the USNWC also offers plen­ty of land activ­i­ties includ­ing a deep water solo climb­ing wall, a high-ropes course and plen­ty of trails to explore by foot or bike. Throw in all the annu­al cel­e­bra­tions that hap­pen through­out the sea­son at the USNWC, and this adven­ture endowed facil­i­ty isn’t just a mec­ca for white­wa­ter rapids, it’s a bea­con for all the adven­ture sports found in the region.

Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter, Potomac Riv­er, Maryland
For recre­ation­al wave users, the Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter pro­vides two oppor­tu­ni­ties to hone your skills. The Potomac River’s Feed­ers Canal has been help­ing Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing ath­letes train since the ear­ly 1970s, and these class I‑II nat­ur­al rapids are still a great place to prac­tice your slalom tech­nique. The Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter also lends to the unique NRG Dick­er­son White­wa­ter Course, which fea­tures a straight, 900-foot chan­nel cre­at­ed by NRG Ener­gy as an out­put for cool­ing water from the Dick­er­son Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion. The white­wa­ter course was installed in 1992 as an Olympic train­ing grounds, and pad­dlers must have a PWRC mem­ber­ship to ride the Dick­er­son White­wa­ter Course, and as a bonus, the water is always heat­ed when it’s time to ride.

Bend White­wa­ter Park, Deschutes Riv­er, Oregon
The Bend White­wa­ter Park of Ore­gon offers three dis­tinct chan­nels on the Deschutes Riv­er, two of which are designed for riv­er rid­ers, with the third exclu­sive­ly des­ig­nat­ed for wildlife trav­el. The two chan­nels designed for humans vary between a pas­sage­way chan­nel that adds a lit­tle froth to anyone’s float, and the white­wa­ter chan­nel specif­i­cal­ly designed for white­wa­ter kayak­ing, surf­ing, and stand-up pad­dle board­ing. The white­wa­ter chan­nel at the Bend White­wa­ter Park fea­tures four waves of vary­ing dif­fi­cul­ty, all cre­at­ed by under­wa­ter pneu­mat­ic blad­ders and nat­ur­al riv­er fea­tures, and caters towards all skill lev­els of white­wa­ter athletes.

Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park, Cas­cade, Idaho
Locat­ed an hour and a half from Boise, Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park is a nation­al­ly rec­og­nized play space for kayak­ers and riv­er enthu­si­ast of all kinds. Home to The Payette Riv­er Games, Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park brings ath­letes and the com­mu­ni­ty to the river­bank through­out the sea­son and caters towards all lev­els of rid­ers with the vari­ety of waves, fea­tures and sep­a­rate chan­nels to nav­i­gate. Even for those not real com­fort­able in the water, the charm­ing back­drop of Cas­cade Ida­ho is worth the vis­it, and the adja­cent 2,600 square foot wel­come cen­ter can add a real extra lay­er to the white­wa­ter experience.


River­sport Rapids, Okla­homa Riv­er, Oklahoma
Serv­ing as the num­ber one adven­ture des­ti­na­tion in Okla­homa City, River­sport Rapids offers great white­wa­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty and so much more. Rafters, kayak­ers, tubers, stand-up pad­dle board­ers and even Drag­on Boat pad­dlers can find some fun in the recir­cu­lat­ing water of River­sport Rapids, and for those only inter­est­ed in the waves, River­sport Rapids offers clin­ics, class­es and pass­es for expe­ri­enced rid­ers to ride on their own. Between tack­ling the class II-IV rapids that define the facil­i­ty, adven­ture options for the whole fam­i­ly are abound, includ­ing high-speed slides, height-defy­ing obsta­cle cours­es, and a bicy­cle pump track.

Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park, Gold­en, Colorado
Per­haps some of the most fun to be had in the adven­ture-endowed region of Gold­en can be found at the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park locat­ed in the heart of the munic­i­pal­i­ty. Fea­tur­ing a quar­ter-mile run, the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Course is split into a top, bot­tom and mid­dle sec­tion, with each area offer­ing its own unique waves and drop-offs. Admis­sion and park­ing is always free to the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park, and it can be a pop­u­lar place to pad­dle dur­ing the warmer months of the year. Serv­ing as a great place for begin­ner and long-time pad­dling enthu­si­asts, the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park is also a great com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ing place for out­door enthu­si­asts of Gold­en and beyond.

Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park, Reno, Nevada
The Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park of Reno is an aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing engi­neered space full of adren­a­line-pump­ing adven­ture. Com­pris­ing of a half-mile of fea­tures, includ­ing 11 drop pools, a vari­ety of class II-III rapids and a con­stant 50–70⁰ tem­per­a­ture, the Truc­k­ee Riv­er has some­thing for all pad­dling enthu­si­asts to enjoy. Sur­round­ing the water is a beau­ti­ful­ly man­i­cured space that’s a com­mon place for pedes­tri­ans to spend the day, and whether you hop in the water to prac­tice your pad­dle strokes, or sim­ply stand by and watch some­one nav­i­gate the waves, the Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park is sim­ply an excit­ing place to be.