Charlotte’s whitewater center sure to get adrenaline flowing

In a rut? Life a little boring? Need something to get the heart racing?

Get a shot of adrenaline at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, while taking on thrill-seeking outdoor adventures.

Whether you’re interested in soaring through the sky, maneuvering through rolling white water, racing along forested trails, or climbing higher and higher on rock walls (some where adventurers splash into a deep pool), the center offers an array of experiences—with guidance and instruction for those needing supervision.

Among the 30 outdoor activities one can participate in at the National Whitewater Center are: ziplining, whitewater rafting, flat water kayaking, stand up paddleboard, mountain biking, ropes, climbing, hiking, and in the winter, ice skating.

The center, which opened in 2001, currently is comprised of more than 1,300 acres of protected land offering 50 miles of trail and access to the Catawba River and Long Creek. Both professional and novice thrill seekers are attracted to the massive site which includes natural, undeveloped spaces as well as the world’s largest man-made whitewater river and other man-made recreation areas. The center plays host to Olympic trials, international competitions as well as music festivals.

Details of a few activities include:

• Ropes is a network of cargo nets, obstacles, suspended platforms and rope bridges as individuals traverse through forest and over rapids.
• Bouldering, top-rope and sport climbing are available on one of the largest outdoor climbing complexes on the East Coast.
• Five ziplines including one that’s reached by climbing a telephone pole.
• Jumps from 30-foot, 60-foot and 100-foot platforms before a belay system slowly lowers participants to the ground.
• Flatwater kayaking and stand-up paddleboard on the Catawba River and Long Creek.
• Choosing among five deep water solo walls—ranging from 20 to 45 feet high—from which rock climbers fall into a deep pool of water.
Although I chose not to engage in firsthand experiences at the center, my time there was enjoyable as an abundance of vantage points provide spectators with views of the action including from a beer garden. This is where I watched as a large group of young people in several rafts tried to follow commands of rafting guides and practiced maneuvers on the calmer area of the water. On the more adventuresome side, I watched a group of four men, who appeared to be experienced rafters, negotiate the swift-moving water that churned aggressively.
In addition to the beer garden, the center also has “full service, fast casual and grab-and-go outlets for food and drinks” on the property.
Single activity passes to engage in activities range from $27 to $55; day passes are $65 for youth and $75 for adults.
Upcoming events at the center include:
• Time Laps 24-hour Relay Race, May 19-20, described as “camaraderie, camping, competition and a whole lot of trail running.”
• Memorial Day Celebration, May 28, includes a Saturday morning race, pass activities, yoga and live music.

While the center offers daring opportunities for visitors, its purpose isn’t all fun and games. The nonprofit’s mission is promoting healthy and active lifestyles, developing environmental stewardship and encouraging family and civic interaction.

For more information on the center, go to whitewater.org.

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