Charlotte, NC

How to Spend a Fun Day at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte

The Planking Traveler

I’m by no means a runner, but I am competitive and love the thrill of pushing myself, so in the past few years, I have run a few trail races and completed one obstacle course race called Rugged Maniac.  Recently, I combined those two and ran my first Obstacle Course Trail Race called The Scrambler at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte!  My friend Naomi and I are both in love with the Whitewater Center and were already planning to be there to watch their Build Your Own Boat Competition, so we decided to sign up for the race to challenge ourselves and see if we could do it!

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Emily Adams

A little background:  Naomi and I have completed several 5k’s together in the past, but neither of us is currently in “race shape” since we haven’t been running regularly (or at all, in my case).  We felt a little nervous because we knew how strenuous the trails are at the USNWC, but at the same time, we were excited to discover what the obstacles would be.  We arrived early to sign our waivers and pick up our t-shirts, and were assigned to the 7th “wave”.  Since the trails can be fairly narrow, they release 7 different waves of runners so that everyone does not get bottlenecked at each obstacle.   There were two options for this race: a short course (3-4 miles) and a long course (6-7 miles).  We opted for the short course.

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Emily Adams

The first obstacle consisted of an Army crawl under some ropes to retrieve a medal in the sand.  We then had to crawl back and tag our partner and to find the matching medal after they completed the crawl.  Next was jumping over stacked hay bales.  I think the object was to jump them like hurdles but I could see myself spraining an ankle with my clumsy tendencies, so I ended up climbing over them instead.  Other obstacles included climbing under/over logs, balance beam logs (holding onto your partner the entire time), jumping to retrieve ties on cords strung from trees (required collaboration with other teams), high monkey bars where each partner carried the other on their shoulders to go across, flipping tires, a partner carry, and the final obstacle required unscrambling a word that was related to the Whitewater Center.

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Emily Adams

Overall it was challenging, but I thought it was a good mix of teamwork and strength skills that were totally doable, even for two people not in tip-top shape.  This was the first year they held this particular race, but I hope they will continue it in the future as it's a great way to kick off their Fall Festival!  After the race, we set up our chairs in a prime viewing spot to watch all the Build Your Own Boat competitors brave the rapids.  Below are just a few of the more interesting boat creations that we saw prior to the competition starting.

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Emily Adams

The first boat actually made it down the rapids virtually unscathed, but it all went downhill from there.  There were plenty of river guides on hand to throw a lifeline to those who fell into the water, so we didn’t feel bad about laughing at their boats falling apart.  The Mario Kart boat was one of my favorites!

A few others like the WWE boat and Santa Sleigh below made it all the way through the competition channel, but the barrel boat definitely did not.

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Emily Adams

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Emily Adams

I’ve been to the USNWC probably 10 times in the past few years and still haven’t gotten around to trying everything they have to offer.  I’ve tried their trails (both running and mountain biking), forest zip lines, whitewater rafting, flatwater kayaking, rock climbing, races, and food truck festivals.   Still on my list to try there: whitewater kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, ropes course, and the zip line over the rapids.

My two favorite festivals at USNWC:

On my bucket list for the next few months:

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Emily Adams

Know Before You Go

  • They are pet-friendly and you’ll see so many beautiful doggos when you go!
  • They have awesome hammock bases where you can bring your own to set up, or you can tie them to the plentiful trees.
  • There are lockers available to leave your belongings: $2 per use for small ones or $10 per day for storage bins (these have come in handy for me)
  • Parking fee is $6 per car, so try to carpool if you can.  No admission fee other than parking, but you’ll have to either buy a day pass or pay per activity. (Get there early on festival/race days to avoid lines, as the parking lot fills up quickly!)
  • They have an outdoor canteen that serves a wide variety of beers on tap and mouthwatering burgers.  They also have a shop that sells water, sports drinks, energy bars, snacks, etc.   They have an indoor restaurant too, but I haven’t gotten to try that one yet.

There is definitely something for everyone here, whether you feel like being active, or just want to chill with friends and enjoy good food and live music.

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Emily Adams

Have you been to the Whitewater Center yet? Other than their Charlotte location, they also have one in Pisgah, Santee, and Grayson Highlands along with operating Long Lines Climbing in Sioux City, Iowa.

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