Oklahoma City, like many other metropolitan areas, has burgeoning urban neighborhoods defined by their own unique personalities. Our downtown neighborhoods’ once decaying streets and buildings have now been transformed into hubs of culture, each serving up a diverse variety of family fun. As the older parts of the city get a facelift, exciting newly-developed areas are taking shape as well.
The Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River has received a lot of attention over the past few years. The banks of the river have been shaped into a main destination for thrill-seekers in the metro. RIVERSPORT Adventures opened four years ago offering up extreme adventures. Still holding its place as the tallest adventure course of its kind in the world, RIVERSPORT Adventures’ SandRidge Sky Trail lets you climb rope bridges, balance beams and more on your way up to the tallest dry slide complex in the United States before returning to the ground via the 80-foot free fall or the zip line across the full width of the river.
A recent addition to the adventures is the Subaru Momentum Pump Track, a fiberglass mountain bike and BMX style course. Berms, bumps and bank turns twist along the longest composite bike pump track in the U.S.
“It’s pretty hard to do but once you get the hang of it, it’s really fun,” shared Greg Newby, Marketing coordinator with the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “It’s a really popular attraction.”
The Boathouse District just opened another one-of-a-kind attraction, RIVERSPORT Rapids, completed as part of MAPS 3, the one-cent sales tax initiative dedicated to metro area projects. The state-of-the-art aquatic facility lets families experience an adventure of an entirely different kind. Nine million gallons of water powered by up to six 23,000-pound pumps create 2,900-feet of raging rapids coursing through two white water channels. One of only three man-made whitewater venues in the nation, the 11-acre center was designed by the same team that designed the whitewater facilities for the 2012 London Olympics.
Oklahoma has a rich Olympic history and the Boathouse District has served to strengthen the connection to this tradition. Oklahoma City is the permanent home for USA Canoe/Kayak and has hosted the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Canoe/Kayak for the last three Olympic games. US Rowing frequently uses the Boathouse District as a training site, as well. RIVERSPORT Adventures’ whitewater facility adds another exciting facet to Oklahoma’s Olympic and sports culture.
Designed to accommodate all skill levels, RIVERSPORT Rapids continues the goals set forth by the Oklahoma Boathouse Foundation and their vision to see people of all ages take part in river sports. This was eloquently demonstrated during the Grand Opening weekend in early May. Taking turns over the two-day event, recreational rafters tackled the water alongside the nation’s top whitewater slalom athletes vying for spots with Team U.S.A. at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
The public can enjoy the new attraction in several ways: group rafting, whitewater kayaking, whitewater tubing and also using inflatable kayaks known as duckies. No experience is necessary to participate in the group rafting. Professional guides will teach you everything you need to know. They break down the proper way to paddle and demonstrate important safety skills in an easy-to-understand orientation session. They will also guide you throughout your entire experience.
There is a bit of prep work required to tackle the rapids in a kayak, however. Most will have to take a couple of courses to ensure they have all the necessary skills to navigate the waters safely. The center provides all the equipment you need including lifejackets and helmets and safety is a high priority. The course is designed for safety with inlets, stairs and professional river guides with swift water rescue training strategically placed throughout the facility.
Group rafting is a team endeavor. Rafts hold up to six paddlers as well as a guide who all work together to navigate the rapids. Camaraderie and teamwork are an important part of the fun! The course is meant to be challenging and the better your team works together, the more times you’ll be able to make it around. Each session lasts about 90 minutes, so you’ll likely get several runs down the channels to perfect your skills.
Plan to bring all the things you’d bring to the pool like sunscreen, towels and a change of clothes. You are going to get wet, so dress comfortably in active wear. Shoes with back straps are required and those with good traction are recommended.
RIVERSPORT Rapids is included with an All Access Pass, as well as the flatwater and land activities. Annual and day pass options are available for $179 and $49, respectively. Depending on the size of your group, ages 8 and up can ride the rapids. Call ahead to determine age availability.