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6 Terrific Whitewater Parks in America

Take on the rapids at these incredible parks. 

By Alli Hill

6 Terrific Whitewater Parks in America

Rafting down mountain rivers is nothing short of addicting, but it’s not your only option for thrills. Whitewater parks are sprinkled throughout the United States, giving thrill-seekers plenty of opportunities to test their paddling skills. Take a look at these six decked-out whitewater parks in America where you can fuel your passion for paddling. 

U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte, NC

The training grounds for paddlers and athletes of all types, this whitewater center is a complete outdoor experience. More than 1,300 acres of 30+ land and water activities await you, including whitewater rafting and kayaking. They host the Whitewater Race Series for serious competitors, as well as provide family-friendly or adventure-style raft experiences. 

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Buena Vista Whitewater Park, Buena Vista, CO

This all-natural whitewater park is a gem in this charming Colorado town. Running down the Arkansas River in downtown Buena Vista, the park is composed of five whitewater features for varying skill levels surrounded by trails and easy water access for those not quite ready to take on the rapids. It’s also the home of the annual CKS Paddlefest that takes place every Memorial Day weekend. 

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River Riders Family Adventure Resort, Harpers Ferry, WV

This full-fledged adventure park puts whitewater rafting within reach of every skill level. They use the scenic Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers as their backdrop for guided whitewater rafting, kayaking, and whitewater tubing tours. Tours typically last 2-3 hours and span seven miles down the river, where you’ll experience Class I-III rapids. This is an excellent family trip for ages six and up, giving you a chance to share the great outdoors with your kids at an early age.

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Bend Whitewater Park, Bend, OR

This unique park blends an urban setting with all the best scenes and sounds of nature in one of the best whitewater parks you’ll ever visit. The river is divided into three channels: The Habitat Channel, which is restricted to humans; the Fish Ladder, which offers a few rapids to shake up your experience; and the Whitewater Channel, which offers four wave features for big thrills. Whitewater paddleboarding and kayaking are two of the top attractions here.

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Boise Whitewater Park, Boise, ID

This premier urban park is a mecca for surf, SUP, and kayaking. The park itself offers gorgeous views of the city and mountains, with multiple activities and entry points on the Boise River. The Harry Morrison Dam is the main attraction of this whitewater park, creating the best whitewater conditions for paddlers. 

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Ouachita River Whitewater Park, Malvern, AR

This park isn’t staffed like many other whitewater parks, so paddling is at your own risk. But there are several local outfitters and guides that regularly host tours of the area and help you get the most from your rafting experience. The area offers a desirable balance of calm waters and raging rapids, especially after a heavy rain. Nature trails, fishing areas, and picnic tables are also big attractions, so plan to make a day of your adventure.

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