Update: USA Today article names local whitewater best man-made course in world

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 28, 2013 

Joe Paull jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com A group of whitewater rafters pull their boat out the Chattahoochee River Wednesday afternoon south of the 13th Street Bridge on the Georgia side of the river.

JOE PAULL — jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

USA Today has published a feature listing “12 of the greatest man-made adventures on the planet,” and listed Columbus’ own urban whitewater course as the world’s No. 1 man-made whitewater attraction.

The article, written by Brian Berkovitz of TheActiveTimes.com and published on USA Today’s website, lists a dozen, “awe-inspiring (and safe) wildlife encounters, outdoor thrills brought indoors and amazing ‘natural’ features that were deftly built with human hands.”

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Dan Gilbert, president of Whitewater Express, the sole outfitter offering rafting trips down the 2.5-mile course, was not aware of the designation, but considers it “justified.”

“When I first started coming to Columbus, thsat river in my opinion was unhealthy. It was not a natural river,” Gilbert said. But once they removed those dams, I truly believe it’s one of the prettiest rivers in the east.

“In terms of rapids, the big Coweta Falls rapids at the base, Cut Bait and Powerhouse, those are gorgeous. It’s hard to find a prettier rapid than that anywhere.”

The environmental and aesthetic improvements aside, Gilbert said he thinks there nothing on this end of the country that tops the Columbus river experience.

“I think we have the best whitewater run on the east coast, and that's the 5:30 run,” Gilbert said. “Here’s the difference, on every other river you get six people in the raft that get to know each other. Our 5:30 run, the high water run that goes through Cut Bait, that group, whether it’s 60 or 90 or 100 people, it becomes one unit. They’re all cheering each other on, they’re all participating as a team.”

Richard Bishop, president of Uptown Columbus, which operates the whitewater course, called the article, “an outstanding recognition,” that has great potential to bring in larger crowds of people.

“When you’re chosen one of the top 12 adventure attractions in the world, that gets folks attention,” Bishop said. “I think it will have a big upside.”

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who linked to the story on the USA Today website from her Facebook and Twitter accounts, called this list “world-class, literally.”

She said attention on the scale of a national publication like USA Today could help elevate the whitewater course to a new level. Supporters of the project expected its reputation to spread beyond the region eventually by word of mouth through the whitewater enthusiast community, she said.

“But I think with the publicity we’re getting it really is reaching a national and beyond national audience,” Tomlinson said. “So we’re not just going to get the hardcore water enthusiasts, I think we’re going to get a lot more tourist traffic."

The article’s description of the local whitewater course reads something like a travel brochure:

“Imagine throttling down the frothy waters of the Amazon, Congo or Colorado River, only to step off the shore to a sprawling city, plush with all the comforts of home.”

And:

“The 2.5-mile course runs straight through the heart of downtown Columbus, opening with five Class III rapids and cranking up to Class IV+ by the end of the wash cycle.”

For the curious, the 11 adventures ranked with of the Chattahoochee as best in their class are:

Best Rooftop “Hangout:” The “EdgeWalk” atop Canada’s CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Best Indoor Biking: Ray’s MTB Park, an indoor mountain bike course in Cleveland.

Best Artificial Reef: The USS Orinsky, an Essex-class aircraft carrier sunk to make an artificial reef and a popular scuba diving site off the Florida coast.

Best Safari: A 22-square mile nature preserve in Oostvaardersplassen, Netherlands.

Best Indoor Skiing: Indoor skiing facility in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Best Wave Pool: Wave Garden in Basque, Spain.

Best Artificial Freefall: Skyventure in Nashua, N.H., a vertical wind tunnel in which “skydivers” can freefall in place.

Best Actual Freefall: A 1,053-foot bungee jump at the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado.

Best “Via Ferrata” Italian for “iron road,” it refers to a mountain climbing destination. The world’s best is atop Borneo’s Mountain Torq.

Best Artificial Wildlife Encounter: Swimming with the Gentle Giants at Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium.

Best Climbing Wall: Ice Factor, a huge cylindrical ice-climbing attraction in Glencoe, Scotland.

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