A group of Morgantown citizens has come up with a remarkable idea to boost recreation tourism in northern West Virginia – a whitewater rafting and kayaking park on the Monongahela River.
Before the lock and dam system was installed along the Mon, naturally occurring rapids controlled the flow of the river. Now, there is a local campaign building momentum to reclaim those rapids for play.
John Lichter originally came to West Virginia to be a raft guide and whitewater racer on the Cheat River. He graduated from WVU, fell in love with the state, and made it his home.
Scott Shipley, a whitewater park designer who has competed in four Olympics and designed the last two Olympic whitewater courses, recently approached John about creating a world-class whitewater park in West Virginia.
In their search to identify locations that would be suitable to build a whitewater park, they found that the site of the Morgantown lock and dam, just south of the Waterfront Place Hotel, was a perfect fit.
Now, the grassroots group is working to build support for their project, and has been well received by the City of Morgantown, Monongalia’s County Commissioners, state legislators and the people of Morgantown. Currently they are evaluating other whitewater parks throughout the country, and identifying design concepts that could work in West Virginia. [The image at the top of this post is of a planned whitewater rafting park and kayaking course in Minneapolis.]
While no final design plan has been settled on, the basic idea is simple. A gate would be installed above the lock and dam system, which when opened would divert a portion of the water flow into a separate channel running parallel to the existing river, to form everything from Class 5 rapids to a lazy river-type flow, depending on the strength and volume of the water release.
Lichter believes the park would be a demonstration of the economic impact of worthwhile investment in West Virginia’s natural assets. The group hopes that utilizing some of the world’s best whitewater rivers right here in West Virginia could position the region as the, “Whitewater Capital of the World.”
The park would be another avenue to draw in tourists from around the country to experience the natural beauty of the Mountain State and even encourage some to lay down roots.
Would you like to see a world-class whitewater park in West Virginia? Jump on the boat!