By Ann Shepphird
Ever want to try whitewater rafting but not necessarily spend your entire vacation doing it? What if it turns out you, your partner, or someone in your family doesn’t like it? Do you just have to endure, having paid for it and traveled what likely was a considerable distance to reach the river?
In Charlotte, North Carolina, you can try it out at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. If you’re not crazy about it after an hour and a half, move onto to some other active adventure such as climbing or mountain biking. Or maybe you’d feel more comfortable in a flatwater kayak.
While Charlotte is, of course, better known for banking and NASCAR, it’s also home to the U.S. Canoe/Kayak Team and the center’s whitewater channels with world-class rapids were created to simulate the conditions found in Olympic-level competition. The channels are used by serious rafters as well as other adventurers, some very experienced, some novice.
The center is also a full-service recreation area that is open to the public and offers 14 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails (ranging from easy to challenging), flatwater kayaking on the Catawba River, as well as one of the largest outdoor climbing facilities in the United States with over 40 roped climbs. On top of that, there’s a 100-foot-long zipline, a low and high ropes course and Eco Trekking, which is a fun, high-tech treasure hunt for kids of all ages.
You can spend your day sampling all of the sports with their AllSport Pass, which is $49 per person ($29 for kids). Another full-day pass, the CoolSport Package is $29 per person (all ages) but does not include whitewater rafting. These tickets can be purchased online. There’s also a full schedule posted, indicating when the whitewater rafting is available (the channels are closed for refurbishment some months over this winter).
Those ready to train for more extreme action (and who have experience) can purchase upgrades for full-suspension mountain biking, rodeo rafting or sit-on-top whitewater kayaking. With pumps that could fill an Olympic-sized pool in 20 seconds fueling the action, the center is definitely capable of putting the extreme into a whitewater experience.
There’s also a restaurant, River’s Edge Bar & Grill, on site as well as an outfitter’s store and lockers. All you really have to do is show up wearing comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes. They provide all the essential equipment for sports including helmets, personal flotation devices,etc. You can also rent wet suits, splash jackets and footwear if you’d like.
One day sampling the different sports here, and you’ll be ready to start planning that adventure vacation whether on the wild rivers of Maine or through the Grand Canyon.
Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Whitewater Center