On a warm spring morning ‘tubers’ navigated rushing and roiling surf along the Cedar River in downtown Charles City. Twenty minutes later one man hauled his tube and paddle onto shore, as a huge grin etched his face.
Although this isn’t a Colorado whitewater experience, Charles City Whitewater at Riverfront Park does have Colorado roots. In fact, while serving as chairman of Charles City’s Parks & Recreation Board for 12 years, Bob Kloberdanz worked with a representative from Boulder, Colorado to create this unusual water feature – including a 13-foot elevation drop that is required for all official whitewater parks.
After Charles City experienced major flooding, during 2008, the city revisited old plans for the whitewater experience, in 2009. Two years later, Iowa’s first whitewater park opened here. The quarter-mile course offers Class 2-3 rapids. The 3/4-mile course features three drops as well as two initial set-in points and a paved trail that leads back to the start of the course.
Front or back surfing works well at Dam Drop; so does stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), when water flow skews lower. A powerful ‘hole,’ where water flow averages 1,400 – 1,900 cubic feet per second, Doc’s Drop is a great spot for advanced boaters to play with their moves. Though not as powerful as Doc’s Drop, the Exit Exam drop also facilitates the practice of freestyle moves.
Planning a trip to this Midwestern whitewater destination? Check current water conditions via continuously recording downstream and upstream cameras, accessible via the attraction’s website.
This wet, wild and wonderful experience is accessible year-round, with no charge for kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, tubers, and other river enthusiasts to enjoy the park. Charles City Whitewater offers a boat launch and an ADA path too. With the removal of one low-head dam (one remains), a new fish ladder also created phenomenal fishing opportunities.
The adjacent Riverfront Park boasts a beautiful setting with a stone-faced riverside amphitheater that seats 115 and hosts theater productions to small concerts, plus a disc golf course. Enjoy one of three picnic shelters and then let the kids spend time in the naturalized play area. Part recreational and part an attempt to improve flood control, the park and whitewater attraction also received a 2013 EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement for its design.
When you’re ready to check out Iowa’s first whitewater site, use the address, 700 Riverside Drive, Charles City, for the best directions. For more information, contact Charles City Whitewater at Riverfront Park online.
Image credit: Lisa Waterman Gray