U.S. National Whitewater Center

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U. S. National Whitewater Center logo
Locale Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Managing agent U. S. National Whitewater Center
Website usnwc.org
Main shape Two Loops
Length Slalom: 300 metres (984 ft)

Long: 550 metres (1,804 ft)

Drop 6.4 metres (21 ft)
Slope Slalom: 2.1% (113 ft/mi)

Long: 1.2% (67 ft/mi)

Pumped 7 pumps (usually 6 or 3)
Flowrate Slalom: 15 m3/s (530 cu ft/s)

Long: 19 m3/s (670 cu ft/s)

Surf wave Adjustable M-Wave plus others
Lighting yes
Canoe lift yes
Opening date 2006 (2006)

The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) is an outdoor recreation facility that opened to the public on November 4, 2006. The Center is located in Charlotte, North Carolina on approximately 700 acres of land adjacent to the Catawba River. Guests can enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour, and mountain biking on our 25+ mile trail system. The USNWC is a locally owned and operated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles, developing environmental stewardship, and encouraging family and civic interaction.

The Main Complex as seen from the Long Channel past the M-Wave.

Whitewater channel[edit]

The original inspiration for the U.S. National Whitewater Center came from the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in Sydney, Australia, built for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The primary feature of the Center is the world's largest recirculating artificial whitewater river, designed by three-time Olympian Scott Shipley.[1]

US National Whitewater Center course map.svg

The recirculating river is filled with 12 million gallons of well water, which is cleaned every 24 hours by a filtration and ultraviolet system.[2][3] The whitewater portion of the river has a total of 3,750 feet (1,140 m) of channel divided between two channels: the Olympic-standard slalom competition channel and the longer wilderness channel, which splits around an island at the top. The rapids are Class II to IV and can be navigated by a number of whitewater-designed crafts. The different channels are linked by an Upper and Lower Pond which are connected by a moving-belt boat-lift conveyor.[4]

Each channel is watered by three of the seven 680-horsepower pumps. Six pumps will water both channels simultaneously. When only one channel is used, an inflated barrier rises up from the bottom to prevent water from entering the unused channel. Since both channels have the same drop, 6.4 metres (21 ft), the extra length of the long channel gives it a gentler slope.[2]

Most of the water diverters are natural boulders cemented in place, but there is some use of moveable plastic bollards attached to the bottom. There are five barn door diverters hinged to the channel sides and positioned by hydraulic pistons, two above the M-Wave on the long channel, and three in the slalom competition channel. The M-Wave is designed to replicate the famous M-Wave in an irrigation channel near Montrose, Colorado.[2]

Olympic Training Site[edit]

The U.S. National Whitewater Center is an official Olympic Training Site for Whitewater Slalom Racing. The USNWC has played host for two Olympic Trials, first for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, and the 2012 Summer Games in London, England. Additionally, the USNWC has played host to the U.S. National Team Trials since 2006.



  • Adventure Rafting Designed for those wishing to experience the excitement of world-class whitewater. A mid-point between the relaxed Family Rafting and more extreme Rodeo Rafting trips, guests take on Class II, III and IV rapids.
  • Family Rafting Geared towards younger guests and first time participants, this adventure will take you through Class II and III rapids.
  • Rodeo Rafting This is an extreme activity in class II, III and IV rapids that will test guest’s skills against drops, waves, and tight technical turns using kayak-style maneuvers.
  • Whitewater Kayaking Paddlers with whitewater boats and gear can enjoy the whitewater channels nine months out of the year. Whitewater kayak instruction is available.
  • Whitewater SUP Paddlers with the proper whitewater SUP gear can enjoy this challenging activity on the whitewater channels. Whitewater SUP instruction is available.
  • Slalom As an official Olympic Training Site, the U.S. National Whitewater Center provides a world-class whitewater channel system in an urban setting, allowing slalom athletes to train and compete.


  • Flatwater Kayaking Flatwater kayaking allows guests to explore the region’s natural environment, wildlife, and ecology along the Catawba River.
  • Tandem Kayaking This two-person boat offers a unique twist to flatwater paddling.
  • Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) combines surfing and paddling into an activity that is adaptable for all ages and skill levels.


  • Climbing Wall Made to look and feel just like granite, climbers can ascend our freestanding walls reaching 30 feet and designed to accommodate all skill levels.
  • Spire The Spire offers lead climbing options and several boulder problems for climbers to solve on a 46 foot climb. Climbers can explore three full-length hand cracks and multiple natural routes.

Ropes Courses[5]

  • Adventure Course This aerial obstacle course is located 20 feet up in the trees on the Adventure Ridge that overlooks the USNWC. The Adventure Course features several different types of aerial obstacles and is a fun activity for families and kids of all ages.
  • Canyon Crossing With five different aerial challenges that span the canyon, guests move from platform to platform at heights exceeding 50 feet and return back across the gorge on a 250-ft zip-line.
  • Canyon Spur An adventure course that loops out over the canyon located beyond the South Ridge, beginning on the same platform as the Canyon Crossing. The Canyon Spur roped challenges are much more physically challenging than those of the Canyon Crossing.
  • Double Cross The first experience (Full Loop) includes eight elements that guide guests across the canyon and back via tree platforms at heights over 50 feet. The second experience (Combo Course) challenges guests to cross the canyon via five of the elements before returning on a 200-ft zip-line.
  • Ridge Course The Ridge Course consists of over 7 different aerial challenges and loops along the ridge line that parallels the whitewater channel including plank bridges, cargo net traverses, and other high adventure challenges.
  • River Course Guests start on the northern point of Hawk Island and immediately find themselves navigating the features while rafters and kayakers pass through the rapids below.
  • Triple Track Triple Track’s 21 elements ranging through beginner, intermediate and advanced difficulty, reaching heights up to 24’. SAFELink SSB technology allows guests to maneuver through their own transfers and decide where the course will lead.
  • Long Point Obstacle Course The course canvases the wooded area beyond the Lower Pond and around the North Trails and Long Creek. Participants will work their way through a series of 10 obstacles, each just a few feet off the ground, with the challenge of completing the course without touching your feet to the ground.
  • Hawk Jump Guests climb 41 feet into the air on the pole ladder leading to the jump platform. After reaching the platform, guests leap off supported by True-Blue Auto Belay technology as they’re lowered back to the ground.


  • Trail Running/Hiking Enjoy a walk, hike, or run as you explore over 20 miles of woodland trails extending along the Catawba River.
  • Mountain Biking Trails are graded according to difficulty and feature challenging climbs and descents for riders of all ages and abilities.


  • Mega Zip This 1,123 foot zip-line launches from the top of the 46 foot Mega Tower and fly over sections of Class III and IV whitewater.
  • Canyon Zip The Canyon Zip is an out-and-back experience in which guests cross the South Ridge canyon on a circuit of 200 foot zip-lines.
  • Climb 2 Zip Participants climb to the top of a 32 foot platform, then glide along the 100 foot zip-line.

Canopy Tour[5] Guests are guided through the tree canopy traveling from platform to platform on a series of zips, sky bridges, cargo net climbs, rappels, and other high adventure challenges. The tour reaches heights in excess of 60 feet in the hardwood trees that lace a 90 foot deep canyon before working its way through a wetlands delta and proceeding along the banks of the Catawba River.

Events and Competitions[edit]

Annually the USNWC hosts over 275 outdoor events, including 87 live musical performances during the River Jam Concert Series, 70 races as part of the Whitewater Race Series, and 9 festivals throughout the calendar year.

The River Jam Concert series takes place on Thursday and Saturday nights from May to September, attracting local, regional, and national musical performers in a variety of different genres. In addition to River Jam, each festival hosted by the USNWC features live musical performances. Past performances have included Tim Reynolds, Moe., Bruce Hornsby, Robert Earl Keene, G. Love, The Lumineers, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Chatham County Line, Marc Broussard, and many more. All concerts are free and open to the general public.

The most popular annual festival hosted by the USNWC is Tuck Fest. Tuck Fest is a three-day festival that celebrates the outdoor lifestyle through competitions, exhibitions, demos and live music. The festival features a variety of outdoor sport competitions that include trail running, kayaking, biking, climbing, stand-up paddleboarding, slacklining and adventure racing. The name “Tuck Fest” comes from the Tuckaseegee Ford and Trail, a historical landmark located at the USNWC.

The Whitewater Race Series was conceptualized and designed to provide a unique platform of competitive events while maintaining broad appeal across various demographics. The series encompasses nearly all of the activities available at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, including trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing, flatwater and whitewater paddling as well as relay and multi-sport races.



  1. ^ Scott Shipley resume
  2. ^ a b c Willoughby, Scott, "Against the flow," Denver Post, Nov 7, 2006. Retrieved Dec 31, 2010.
  3. ^ Whitmire, Tim (2006-07-01). "$32 million, 12 million gallons bring rapids to Charlotte". The Telegraph (Associated Press). 
  4. ^ Greenstein, Leah. "World's Largest Whitewater Park". WetDawg. Retrieved 2006-08-23. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "USNWC Homepage". Ettain Group. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  6. ^ Teena, Moore. "American River Rafting Specialists". Retrieved 11 March 2015. 

External links[edit]


Coordinates: 35°16′20.4″N 81°0′18.3″W / 35.272333°N 81.005083°W / 35.272333; -81.005083