USNWC - Whitewater Kayaking

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At the heart of the U.S. National Whitewater center is a two channel, man-made river. The class II through IV rapids are the local training ground for Olympic athletes and weekend warriors.

Written by

Rob Glover


0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

10.8 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

There's a range of difficulty from class II through class IV rapids and it's easy to focus on one or the other.

Time To Complete

0 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

During winter, the water is drained and channel cleaned.

Dog Friendly


The center is very dog friendly but not so much on the rapids.

Fees Permits


Besides the parking fee, there is a cost to use the man-made river. Check the website for current costs.



While rolling hills, green farmland, and a variety of forests make the piedmont of North Carolina a fantastic place for all sorts of outdoor sports, it doesn’t provide much opportunity for the swift waters needed to make a first rate kayak run. Since the U.S. National White Water Center opened, however, Charlotte’s river running crowd has had a place to paddle without the two-hour drive to western NC. As the centerpiece of the amazing USNWC, the man-made whitewater channels offer super quick access to class II to IV rapids for kayaks, canoes, and even SUPs.

What Makes It Great

Access is the greatest attribute of the U.S. National Whitewater Center. So many sporting opportunities near to one another means that visitors can try multiple events in one day. And the proximity to Charlotte’s population centers means they don’t have to drive far to do it.

The 12 million gallons of well water that fill the man-made river is motivated by 7 – 680 horsepower pumps and is divided into two channels. The 21 feet of drop common to both is spread out over a longer distance in the wilderness channel. This allows for a somewhat gentler ride to the class III and IV rapids of the competition Slalom channel.

Combined with the more stable Upper and Lower Pools, these different paddling environments give the right amount of challenge to the full range of paddlers. Newbies can take beginner lessons from USNWC staff, learning to roll in the calm pool waters while the best of the best, the U.S. National Slalom Team train on the competition channel.

Several fixed “boulders” create a more natural flow to the river while a handful of movable diverters are used to change the feel of the channel to keep things interesting.

Who is Going to Love It

While the predictable rapids of the manmade river do lack some of the natural beauty associated with epic southeast runs like the Gauley and the Green, there’s no beating the Center for training every level of paddler. Beginners benefit from a team of guides and instructors while experienced kayakers have a place for predictable flow without having to wait for dam releases or seasonal changes that effect water levels.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Parking at the USNWC costs either $5 for one visit or $40 for a yearly pass. Paddlers must have their own boat and gear although they do offer demo’s for experienced kayakers if they're interested in buying from their retail selection. The water flows at the USNWC nine out of 12 months, giving a three months winter window for cleaning out the channels and gathering all the lost items.

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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC, 28214
35.272425, -81.005258

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