From the Vault: Whitewater Parks

Though the courses are artificial, the beatdowns are still very real

There has been a recent surge of restoring waterways in U.S. cities and converting them into whitewater parks. In fact, just last May, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership announced it would add 11 new restoration projects around the country.

These parks will range from slight alteration of natural waterways to full-blown parks similar to Charlotte N.C.’s whitewater center. Anyone who’s paddled a manmade course recognizes the inherent differences to a natural riverbed—the conveyer belt offering paddlers a ride for that second and third lap, the smooth concrete walls and floors minimizing dangers but distorting the flow dynamics and some very, very odd eddies.

This resurgence got us at C&K thinking about the history of manmade whitewater centers, prompting us to re-publish this story from the May 2008 issue, in which C&K Editor-at-Large Eugene Buchanan finds that while the courses may be artificial, the beatdowns are still very real.

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