Wild on the Water
This summer, residents of Oklahoma and beyond will be kayaking, tubing and riding the rapids in downtown Oklahoma City as the new $45.2 million whitewater rafting and kayaking center opens in May.
Part of MAPS 3, the OKC Riversport Rapids will open, offering recreational water sports like whitewater rafting and kayaking, but also water sport lessons, leagues and camps. A grand opening, set for May 7 and 8, will kick off the new facility at the Oklahoma City Boathouse District.
“Oklahoma City is the only major city in America with a whitewater rafting complex inside the city,” said Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “Thanks to MAPS 3, this is possible. It’s a very complicated endeavor, but it’s something we’ve dreamt of for years.” MAPS 3 is a one-cent sales tax initiative to fund projects that enhance the quality of life for metro area residents.
The grand opening events include the U.S. Olympic Trials for canoe and kayak, slalom and more on the new whitewater course, and residents will be able to try out some of the Olympic sports through Team USA’s Road to Rio Tour.
Athletes from across the US will visit Oklahoma City as part of the Rio Games competition. For residents, the event will show what Oklahoma City’s Riversport can offer.
“That weekend, we want as many people on the water as we can. This is a center created for Oklahoma City, and we want everyone to experience whitewater rafting,” Knopp said.
A rowing regatta at the Oklahoma River will feature more than 1,500 youth rowers competing for the USRowing Central District Youth Championships. The grand opening event is free, though parking is $10. Rapids rafting and adventure passes will be available online and at the festival.
The Riversport Rapids’ re-circulating channels pumping treated water will create class II through class IV rapids and will offer a range of experiences. The center will offer a variety of activities including group rafting, whitewater kayaking (both competitive and recreational) and inflatable kayaks also known as “duckies.” Professional guides will teach first-time rafters and certified instructors will provide additional lessons for those looking to build their skills.
The whitewater experience lasts approximately 90 minutes and includes the orientation session, raft instruction and several runs down the channels. The orientation session, led by a professional guide, covers use of equipment, paddling tips and techniques and safety measures. Once the raft or kayak hits the water, it is pulled up a conveyor belt to the top of the whitewater rafting
From there, participants raft or kayak down either the novice or experienced channel. The novice channel will be slower and designed for people new to the sport while the experienced channel includes higher thrill and challenge levels for those more experienced.
“This is truly a game-changer for Oklahoma City to open a center that is so unique and so world class,” said Knopp. “This outdoor adventure amenities says a lot about our commitment to creating a unique experience and a quality of life.”
“The design of this venue is not a pure whitewater one,” said Jeffrey Gustin, senior program manager at S2O Design and Engineering, the design firm behind Riversport Rapids. “We designed a venue that provides Olympic standard whitewater but also truly provides a place for everyone to enjoy, beginner to expert.”
For more information about Riversport Rapids, visit www.boathousedistrict.org/whitewater and www.riversportokc.org. Rafting passes are $49 per day and All Access Annual Passes are $179 per person and includes whitewater, flatwater and land adventures.