From the New River to the Nantahala, the Southeast already has some great whitewater, but, until now, the Chattahoochee River wasn’t on that list. Thanks to two blasted dams and an adjustable wave, this storied Southern river on the Georgia-Alabama line is getting its very own whitewater park.
Designed by the same company that built the Ocoee’s Olympic whitewater course, a 2.5-mile stretch of the Hooch that flows through downtown Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama will open to paddlers on Memorial Day weekend.
According to rafting outfitter Whitewater Express, the course will boast class IV+ rapids and, with a peak flow of 13,000 cubic feet per second, the biggest whitewater in the eastern U.S.—well, east of itself anyway. (For comparison, the famed Lower Gauley rarely passes 10,000 cfs during peak spring melt.)
Although the project’s financiers call it “the longest urban whitewater course in the world,” there are concerns, says local columnist Chuck Williams, that it is too short to compete with more established Appalachian runs further north. The largest rafting operator in the Southeast, Nantahala Outdoor Center, pulled out of the project after test runs this spring, leaving Whitewater Express as the sole rafting company on the river.
Still, the $25 million project is hoped to draw $4 to $7 million a year and 60,000 to 100,000 annual visitors, and local outdoor outfitters are optimistic.
“It’s already bringing a lot of new boaters into town,” said Chris Largent, manager of a local paddling shop, to Canoe & Kayak Magazine. “Everyone’s super excited about it and can’t wait to get out there and check it out.”