Whitewater area to open March 18
Updated: Mar 6
Well… it’s finally here!
The date for the whitewater area in Great Falls to open has been set and we are less than a month away from that long awaited day.
The Long Bypass Reach, also known as the Long Channel, will open to the public on March 18, 2023. The Nitrolee Access Area off of U.S. 21 will open at the same time and experienced whitewater kayakers will be able to take that two-mile thrilling ride.
For the time being, the Short By-Pass Reach (the Short Channel) will remain closed because there is still some construction that has to be completed for it to open. The opening for that channel will be the first weekend in May.
This opening of the channel was first proposed nearly 20 years ago as the stakeholders in the Duke Energy relicensing process talked about the possibility of opening up the area for whitewater recreation. I was a part of that process and was amazed that something like that would even be considered. American Whitewater advocated for that possibility and by the time the Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement was signed in July 2006, the idea was going to become a reality.
Very few people (although one or two from Duke did tell me it could be a long process) thought it would be nearly 17 years before the whitewater would be a reality. In the ensuing time, however, the first idea grew to be a major whitewater development and thanks to Duke Energy, this will be a special part of the Nature Based Tourism Initiative that the Great Falls Home Town Association started in 2000.
The Nitrolee Access with it’s 100 parking places, an easy turn around and a restroom facility will be the first thing that visitors to the area will see. Down a short trail is the ruins of the nitrogen plant that James B. Duke and Williams States Lee put in to help use the electricity they were producing at the Great Falls Hydro plant after it’s opening in 1907. The process used was a rare form of producing nitrogen for fertilizer. There will be boards with photos that tell the story of the process around the one building that still stands from that industry.
The whitewater is something that people need to be cautious about. The rapids in the long channel will be at least Class 2 and Class 3. The other day in talking with one of the experts in the field of whitewater kayaking, he said that the rapids could be a bit higher in the long bypass. Only experienced paddlers should be in either of the channels. These flows and rapids are NOT for the novice.
The whitewater that makes up the Long Channel is just the first of the many outdoor recreation amenities we will have in Great Falls and it will probably be the most adventurous.
Things are progressing towards having all the other recreational opportunities available. Earlier this month, South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism signed a lease agreement with Duke Energy to lease the islands in the Cedar Creek Reservoir (better known as Stumpy Pond) for use as a South Carolina State Park.
It was an exciting day with a nice ceremony and people gathering to commemorate the signing as the official kickoff to the planning and development of the State Park on Dearborn Island. I was especially excited because I had been waiting for that lease to be signed since July 2006.
With these developments, Duke will begin with the project slated for the next five years of the license. Construction of the recreation amenities were scheduled in five-year increments. Over the next five years the pedestrian bridge to Dearborn Island will be built, a canoe and kayak launch will go in near the new bridge giving access to Great Falls Reservoir and another canoe and kayak launch will go in at the old Mudcat Inn site which is just south of the Great Falls Dam. There will also be a fishing platform installed in the tailrace of Fishing Creek Dam.
There are a lot of exciting things in store for Great Falls over the next few years. And this whitewater is just the first.
I can hardly wait!