Thursday, June 29, 2006

Whitewater Parks on the American

Whitewater parks, what a great way to expand the enjoyment of the river, and it is refreshing to see its growing popularity.

An excerpt.
Rollin' on the river
Whitewater festival reflects sport's rising attraction

By Janet Fullwood -- Bee Travel EditorPublished 12:01 am PDT Thursday, June 29, 2006

.…While recreational kayaking on lakes and slow rivers has grown at warp speed over the past decade, whitewater kayaking -- the sport's flashier, more-adventurous dimension -- is attracting both never-evers and flat-water paddlers ready to take on the challenges presented by swift-water currents, foaming rapids and swirling eddies.

Sacramento, with its proximity to the American River and other fast-flowing streams, is a hotbed of the sport that industry experts say is becoming more accessible to a broad range of recreationists….

A park on the American?

Meanwhile, scores of similar parks have sprung up around the country, from Fort Worth, Texas, to Green River, Wyo., to Golden, Colo. The first "superpark" opened June 15 in Charlotte, N.C.
Built at a cost of $21 million, the U.S. National Whitewater Center features three channels of recirculating whitewater on 277 acres just outside the city.

"The water is all pumped; it's not on a natural river at all," Litchfield says.

A park for Sacramento is still in the dream stages, but a lot of people are dreaming. Dan Crandall, a member of the U.S. Surf Kayak team and owner of Current Adventures, a paddling school based in the El Dorado County hamlet of Lotus on the American River, has been involved in a long-term effort to get one built.

"As a result of quite a few successful courses built in Reno and elsewhere over the last four years, many cities are beginning to realize their potential," he said. "Especially in Sacramento, where a lot more people are into the recreational scene, a whitewater park could have year-round potential for a variety of things, from kids programs to park-and-play elements, competition elements, swift-water rescue training and tubing elements."

A multiuse park ties in to what Patrick Nichols, a former Texas Tech linebacker who operates the SurfNV kayak school in Reno, sees as nationwide trend.

"Individual sports -- kayaking, snowboarding, skating -- are growing, while team sports are declining," he says. "White- water parks are driving the sport more than anything. If cities will support them, everybody benefits."

As a spectator sport, whitewater kayaking -- particularly the playboat side, in which paddlers perform cartwheels and other showboat tricks in short, stubby craft colored like Easter eggs -- is fun to watch from the shore. But, as California Canoe & Kayak's Borichevsky notes, "to participate in it takes a tremendous amount of time and commitment."

More appealing to the majority of paddlers is downriver touring, she says. "It's about enjoying rapids, enjoying scenery, enjoying camaraderie, doing a little playing. It's much more forgiving -- people don't have to do it every day or every weekend to enjoy it."