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.