About 2 years ago our office decided to go on a ?team building? trip. As many of you probably would be, I was very ?excited? about this great day away from doing anything that I really needed to be doing at work. We all knew we had to go, but we didn?t know where we would be going at first. Initially, I envisioned a lame day that would only get me further behind at my job and that would have me playing catch-up on emails the following day. Boy was I wrong.
Our boss took us to the US National White Water Center which is located just southwest of Charlotte NC. It?s right off both I-85 and I-485 (the belt loop around Charlotte). See directions to the White Water Center. It?s actually very close to Belmont, NC if you know where that is. Anyway, this place is awesome and I do mean with a capital A! I was very surprised at how something this cool could be tucked way back in the woods and yet not many people know about this facility. The location is also an Olympic training center where rafters and kayakers train. When we walked up to the facility we were walking uphill and then when we got to the top we saw the whole place and it is a very nice setup. Somebody put some time, money, and thought into this facility.
To attempt to describe the view?the scene consists of the white water rapids that are directly in front of you with the rock climbing towers to the left. The aroma of the food coming from the restaurant (which serves a really good menu...including sweet potato waffle fries) comes from the right. The restaurant also has a balcony where people eat, sit, and watch others raft. Also from this vantage point you can see the long zip-line that goes across the water to your right. There is a big platform where you can see them start the zip-line. Yes, you can get hooked up and zing from one side of the facility to the next. On your left near the restaurant is the White Water Store where you can buy any kind of shirt, hat, or outdoor oriented gear. Beyond what you can see are a lot of biking trails, hiking trails, and ropes courses. I?m telling you, this place is jam up?.not to mention that they have bands out there to play all the time and they?ve got a stage for the bands too! If you want to bring your dog, no problem?the facility is dog friendly as we saw a lot of people walking their dogs around the park. They also have huge rocks scattered throughout the center where you can sit and watch people do whatever activity they?re doing. I mean really you can sit about 5 feet from the rafters as they go buy. You could probably high-five one of them if you wanted. It?s neat to see them laughing, yelling, some crying as they hit the rapids.
From a technical standpoint (because you know I?m always analyzing someone?s web site and all things technical) they have something very neat. Throughout the day while visitors are rafting, the center has photographers that walk around and take pictures. At first I didn?t know who they were, but after going through the whole process I quickly learned. The pictures that these people take are sent to a database and it is done very quickly. We rode the rapids (and oh yeah, my boss got tossed from the boat which was awesome) and then after we were through we went to leave. On the way to leave you have to check your gear back in and in that building they have all these flat screen TV?s where you see the pictures that the photographers took. We actually saw a pic of our boss eating it and we all just died laughing. Instantly you think about buying a pic, but you?re all wet and don?t have your wallet on you?no worries because they store those same pics on their web site and you can go back and look through all the pics and purchase however many you want. A well thought out process that is efficient and uses the web site to the max?impressive. You know I loved it!
I should mention that you aren?t just thrown out there on your own. Each boat has 6 people in it + a guide. The center gives you a guide who directs the raft and tells everyone who needs to paddle and when they need to paddle etc. Even before getting in the boat we had a 30 minute sit-down lecture where we had to sign our life away and learn how to properly wear our helmets, life-vests, and even how to get back in the boat should anybody have fallen out. Another safety thing I should mention is that throughout the rapids, they have people who are only there for your safety?that is, if you fall out, they literally ?throw you a rope? and pull you to the side. I think the ladies who went on our trip really found that comforting. Keep in mind that this whole facility is man-made and they create the rapids with a huge pump. So the environment is a controlled environment in a small sense, but I will also say that the rapids are no child?s play.
My wife and I went there last night just to eat dinner and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed going out there. She had never seen the place before so we decided to do something different and venture out. There was even a wedding reception going on while we were there. We ate on the balcony and watched the last few rafters and kayakers go through the rapids while the band played below. We enjoyed it and yes the food was good.
The White Water Center also has Catawba River access and a ton of activities such as mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, eco-trekking, rafting, walking/running/hiking trails, zip lines, mega-jump, and an adventure course. They host events, have a conference center, and all kinds of programs for everyone. Yes, I took that right from their web site which is here: www.usnwc.org. Check it out for more info.
I would definitely recommend this place to anyone. If you like the outdoors and adventure, you will like the White Water Center. The only complaint I have about the center is that they charge you for parking. There is a $5 fee just to park. It doesn?t matter whether you?re going to eat, raft, walk, make a u-turn or whatever. They have a little guard shack out front who stops you and charges you. That?s the only thing I didn?t like. Other than that, I give it 2 thumbs up. I think this would be a great place to take your family, church group, office team, etc. It is definitely worth the drive from wherever you may be in SC to get there. Before you come though, you may want to call ahead and also look at the schedule. This place gets booked up in the summer so you want to be sure to reserve your time when they have available options. You can buy various combinations of passes with the most expensive (for one day) being $49. See their pricing options here. This will get you access to every activity they have.
If you do venture out the whitewater center, respond in the comment section below and let me know what you thought about it!
* All photos in this blog credited to the US National White Water Center