Thursday, June 17, 2010

Whitewater Center

Cities that want to be "world class" often claim that they have "world class" this and "world class" that. Most of those claims are hot air.

However, Charlotte North Carolina does have something that's world class. It's the US National Whitewater Center on the southern edge of town. Why this was placed in this particular location is a mystery to me. I'm not complaining or anything, but I don't know how we managed to get it.

The entrance, when we arrived before the 10:00 am opening.

Among other things, it contains the largest and most extensive artificial whitewater training facility on Earth. It has an enormous pumping station that chugs out 13 million gallons of purified water down a number of artificial river tracks. These mini-rivers contain anything from Class II to Class IV rapids. It's a very impressive set-up.

At the big rock climbing walls.

For some reason, despite the fact that we'd wanted to go there for some time, today was the first time we availed ourselves of the opportunity to go. Since it was our 26th wedding anniversary, Carole wanted to do something both special and different. So we bought admissions for our little family to go to the center to spend the day.

The main pool above the whitewater. It's all downriver from here.

As soon as we arrived we decided to do some flatwater kayaking on the Catawba River which runs beside the center. The price of admission included unlimited day-long kayaking on the river, so we took advantage of that and kayaked around a large island for about an hour and twenty minutes.

Carole and Andy on the Catawba River.

After that, we hiked back up to the center and went to experience the tree-high zip line. Well, Andy and I did. Carole opted to stay down below and take photos. It was beyond her physical capabilities anyway.

Yep. There I go up to the top of the zip-line! (I learned rock climbing's not for me.)

Then we headed over to the center's restaurant and ordered lunch--it was after noon by this time. We each had a good sandwich and some tea (I had water and a nice micro-brew). As soon as we took leave of the restaurant we hiked around the center, checking out the various whitewater tributaries and the massive system of pumps that make it all possible. By that hour it was time for us to meet up at the main staging area to get ready for the day's main event: the guided whitewater rafting.

The giant conveyor belt that takes your raft/kayak back to the top pool after a run through the whitewater. Also see the giant pumps at work. And notice the person falling off the raft at the very end of the video.

We all had a blast! The rapids were as advertised. Anything from Class II to Class IV. We got soaked, and upended on one set of really tough water. The whole raft just went completely over and dumped us into the drink. All part of the price of admission, as far as we were concerned. Following almost two hours of this, I opted to relax by the faux-river while Carole and Andy signed up for another go. By 5:30 pm the day was over and we headed home. We dropped Andy at his place and then came back to our place. Carole is already snoozing away, and I'll join her soon.

Best anniversary celebration in some time!

Carole and Andy see me on the bank of the whitewater course.


Jack said...

Cool! I have heard about that place! We might have to go check it out sometime.

HemlockMan said...

It's fun! Plenty to do if you buy the comprehensive admission. Unlimited use of river kayaking (Catawba River), hiking trails, mountain biking trails, rock climbing walls, zip lines, parachute drop, whitewater rafting, and whitewater kayaking (you have to be qualified for that, though). And there's a nice restaurant there.