Gaston & Catawba

Whitewater trip will thrill you and grandkids

Grandparents love to take their grandkiddies on adventures. For me, there are three criteria to satisfy: the activity should be moderately priced (free is best); travel should be minimal; and finally, there should be a discernible “wow” factor for all involved.

Simply put, I want to have fun, too.

All of these criteria were easily satisfied the day my husband, David, and I took grandson Will, age 7, to the U.S. National Whitewater Center located just across the Catawba River bridge in Mecklenburg County.

The Whitewater Center is a diamond in the rough. Everything about the facility is meticulously cared for and shines like a new penny.

Will's eyes lit up as soon as he saw the climbing wall and whitewater rapids. David's eyes lit up when he discovered that the only entry fee is $5 for parking. My eyes lit up when I saw the restaurant overlooking the rapids.

On this, our first trip, I was amazed at the size of the 300-acre wooded facility, with 11 miles of hiking and biking trails, 1.5 miles of flatwater boating, and the world's largest man-made whitewater river.

There is something for everyone, even for a weenie like me. I certainly could paddle a canoe along the banks of the Catawba River, since the age requirement is 4 and up. I might take on the beginner whitewater trip, recommended for intrepid 10-year-olds.

David wished he had worn his running shoes when he spied the trails. Will absolutely pined for the chance to scale the climbing walls, but grayer heads decided to wait until a parent was along.

He did climb on every other rock or boulder in the vicinity and perched perilously close to the rapids for a better look.

We learned that on the next trip, Will can look forward to assaulting a 30-foot wall and 46-foot climbing spire. I bet he and his parents will bring bikes along, too.

Activities such as rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and the ropes course cost extra, but the prices are not excessive. For example, guided rock climbing is $23; a beginner or intermediate rafting trip is $39 on Mondays through Thursdays, $69 on Fridays, and $65 on Saturdays and Sundays.

For sure-fire fun, that is not bad at all.

What I really like about the Whitewater Center is that I see all five of our grandchildren enjoying a variety of activities as they grow. I am especially fascinated with the Eco Cache program that focuses on environmental education. How absolutely delightful it will be to explore the outdoors in safe surroundings.

The Whitewater Center is open all year, but it's good to check times and prices at To reach the center, take Interstate 85 Exit 12, Moores Chapel Road.