Whitewater still growing as zip line preps for Saturday opening

Whitewater rafting continues to grow on the Chattahoochee as the outfitting company that guides the raft trips prepares to open its new zip line across the river.

Dan Gilbert, president of Whitewater Express, which operates raft trips down the river and will operate, and finance, the $400,000 zip line project, said the attraction will start sending some people across on Friday, but will officially open to the public on Saturday.

Zip line riders will step off a 60-foot tower in Woodruff Park and almost immediately find themselves about 100 feet above the river as they race toward the Phenix City tower at speeds of 35-40 mph. Once there, they can navigate a two-tier aerial course, then another 400-foot zip line through the trees along the riverbank, then board a pontoon boat for a ride back to Columbus.

Gilbert said he has recently received encouraging numbers concerning the rafting attraction. Almost 6,300 rafters floated down the river in August, bringing the total to date to 22,670 for the year.

“We are confident that we will surpass 25,000 guests this season,” Gilbert said. “Everyone's hard work is paying off.”

Gilbert said his company’s online survey shows that people are coming to Columbus to raft the river from farther and farther away. It also shows that rafters rented 588 hotel rooms in August alone.

“If the average hotel room is $100, then over $58,000.00 was spent on hotel stays alone for August,” Gilbert said.

A recent survey conducted by the Georgia Conservancy also reflected well on the city and the river, Gilbert said.

According to the survey:

  • 47 percent of the guests were on their first visit to Columbus.
  • 98 percent would recommend this rafting trip to a friend.
  • 63 percent traveled more than 50 miles to get to Columbus.
  • 90 percent ate at a downtown restaurant.
  • 94 percent would consider a 2nd rafting trip in Columbus.
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