Charlotte has always been home to a dedicated group of paddlers, made tough by world-class rivers around the South East. But its location in the heart of the central Piedmont, an expanse of slowly rolling hills nestled between western mountains and eastern coastal plains, left the immediate area short of a local river for quick afternoon roll practice.
That all changed when the U.S. National Whitewater Center flipped the switches on pumps that push competition level rapids through their multichannel manmade river. Since then whitewater kayakers, from first-day paddlers to Olympic qualifiers, have had a home training site 15 minutes from uptown Charlotte. The on-site restaurant and biergarten are a huge plus.
When it’s time to get on a natural river, the Saluda River in Columbia, S.C., has some great play spots. The Green River—split between the upper class IIIs, the world famous Narrows, and mild lower Green —is a fantastic paddling experience in beautiful surrounds.