On Gaston County’s eastern edge, along the Catawba River, lies a 1,300-acre playground. The nonprofit U.S. National Whitewater Center has one goal: to encourage people to get outdoors. The centerpiece is the largest manmade whitewater course in the world, where paddling novices as young as 8 years old navigate class II and III rapids and elite athletes up their training on class IV rapids in preparation for the Olympic games.
The center also embraces its natural neighbor, sending kayakers and paddlers along the Catawba River’s flat water. River trips afford floaters wildlife views and a peaceful serenity that comes with gently drifting water. In all, the USNWC offers more than 30 land- and water-based activities. The center also supports complementary components of an active lifestyle, such as live music, fresh food and craft beverages.
A visit here stirs a desire to make the outdoors a daily destination.
Whitewater rafting is a must at USNWC — it’s in the name after all. Rapids range from classes II to IV, and experiences vary from beginner to advanced. All options include a professional guide. Experienced paddlers may take on the whitewater course by kayak. For a flat-water float on Catawba River or Long Creek, choose from single and tandem kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Zipline courses stretch across the center’s campus. Varying from 200 feet to more than 1,000 feet long, ziplines carry passengers above the tree canopy and across the whitewater course. Traverse platforms, cargo nets and bridges on one of several ropes courses, or inch to the top of the rock at one of the region’s largest outdoor climbing facilities. The property contains 45 miles of trails ideal for hiking, mountain biking and trail running. Most USNWC activities require a pass. All-access passes cover every activity for one to two days, or single activity passes cover one activity for a certain day. Annual passes are also available.
Gaston County offers visitors a variety of attractions to enhance your trip including museums, botanical gardens, extreme sports, hiking, dining and entertainment parks, art and history and more. www.GoGastonNC.org