How to maximize your Whitewater experience - WRBL

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How to maximize your Whitewater experience

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Almost 190,000 people are expected to be drawn to Whitewater Columbus annually. Some may be experts, some amateurs when it comes to rafting.

Interested in getting out there on the water but don't know a thing about whitewater rafting? Maybe the thought of braving those rapids is just plain terrifying to you. Don't worry! There are plenty of ways to enjoy the river without much risk.

The two and a half mile whitewater course is one of the most diverse in the country, and it's designed to cater to all skill sets. "They built it to be safe, but it has giant water," says Whitewater Express owner Dan Gilbert, "and giant water means giant waves and that's just more fun."

The state-of-the-art WaveShaper changes the flow of the river throughout the day. During the earlier part of the day it's set to low-flow at 800 cubic feet per second (CFS), an exciting but safe ride for beginners.

The Outside World's Whitewater instructor Joey Robinson says, "The WaveShaper is a perfect place for somebody who's not sure of their skills yet, they're still developing them. They can put in in the eddy above the WaveShaper and run down through it, and even if they flip over and swim, they come down to the stairs and they take out and come up and try again with very little consequence."

But like any new enterprise, you have to know the rules. Gilbert says, "To think that you can go get a raft, and get some guys and just jump in this and be prepared is probably foolish."

While the river is designed to be safe there are still rocks and quick water to watch out for. You should always wear a helmet and a type 5 Personal Flotation Device. "A type 5 is a type that has a collar behind your head, so that even if you're knocked unconscious, it holds your head up out of the water," Gilbert says.

And for the less adventurous, a swim in the Habitat Pool introduces you to the local wildlife. Gilbert remarks, "In traveling other rivers in the Southeast you just don't see this much wildlife. When you're out on this river, I've been amazed. When you're swimming down the Habitat Pool, as you go downstream, there's turtles swimming underneath you upstream, so it's a really cool experience."

Even if you're spectating on the river bank, however, it's important to be cautious. Uptown Columbus CEO Richard Bishop says, "People that are coming down here, they just need to make sure that they think smart and for small children, they always need to be accompanied by an adult and follow all the rules that you would typically follow when you're around water."

You can boat down the river on your own for free. Start-up costs for buying the proper equipment will run you around $1800.

Or you can ride along with Whitewater Express. Day rides are $32.50 and the quicker night rides are $48.50. That rate includes two trips.

Kids must be at least seven years old or 60 pounds for the low-flow day trips and at least 12 years old for the high-flow evening rides.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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