Kayaking the Catawba - Fathers Day Adventure

kai·ak, ky·ack, ky·ak, kayak (ing) the Catawba River – Travel

I’m not sure my daughter can top her Father’s Day gift to me this year. She set the bar rather high for herself when she took me to the US National Whitewater Center (USNWC) for kayaking on the Catawba River.

US Whitewater Center - buildingIt was my first time at the USNWC, although several people had mentioned the facility as a perfect place for someone with an active lifestyle. What is nice about the center is that it offers outdoor activities for all levels of participants. There are in fact 30+ land and water based activities for someone to participate in. Things like whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour, mountain biking on the facilities 40+ mile trail system, and more.

US Whitewater Center - RapidsWe signed up for what the center calls flatwater kayaking. To get to the launching dock we first passed through some the Whitewater Center’s other activity stations. A number of large rafts circled the pool area tackling a variety of rapids. My daughter and I reminiscent about our own whitewater experience down the New River in West Virginia. Above us the individuals flew down the Zip Lines, one or two screaming at the top of their lungs. I shared a story or two about my zip line experiences at Zip Quest in Fayetteville. The rock climbing walls were amazing, and we both wished we had the nerve (for me upper body strength) to tackle these activities.

At the kayak station, we got our lifejackets (a requirement) and instructions on paths we could follow on the Catawba. It was still a hike down to the river up and down a few hills into the woods then straight down to the water’s edge. Here not only were kayaks launching, but standup paddle boarders were also entering the water.

Kayaking the Catawba - Main Dock

We were each assigned our own boat to paddle. Staff members of the USNWC were on hand to slide you off the dock into the water. This was nice, and it eliminated that sometimes rocky entrance into the boat.

It was a beautiful day, but extremely hot, and so we moved quickly away from the docks into the trees following a canal. The overhanging trees with their possibility of harboring snakes worried my daughter, but the foliage was thin and the danger low. We did see some wildlife such as birds, turtles, and fish during our excursion.


From the canal, we entered the open waters of the Catawba where both speed boats, jet skis, and patio boats were cruising by. Most boaters slowed down for the smaller craft, but a few created some wakes that rocked us pretty well. My daughter is a paddle boarder and these extra ripples in the water did not faze her, but I turned my bow into the waves to avoid tipping over.  Our time with the powerboats was not long as we turned back into the small quiet cove that the USNWC manages.

Kayaking the Catawba - Looking AheadA number of other kayakers had gotten out of their boats to swim with family members or four-legged buddies. We chose to just beach on a sandbar under some shade trees for a rest and a snack break.

Back on the water, we drifted and paddled our way back to the docks. During our journey, we spoke with other kayakers as they passed, and peered into the dense words around us for wildlife. It was a wonderful afternoon adventure and an experience I’ll never forget.


If you are interested in flatwater kayaking at the USNWC there is no previous experience required. All flatwater kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding gear (boat, PFD, and paddle) are provided with pass purchase, but guests with their own gear are welcome to utilize the flatwater put-in.


For information on other activities at the Whitewater Center and charges, check out their website: US National Whitewater Center

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