Paddling the New Whitewater Course at ASCI
By David Hill
I have been trying to coordinate a trip to the USNWC Charlotte course in conjunction with a work trip but things never seem to go as planned. Then while I was pitching the idea for some whitewater features in Kent to the City, they asked me to participate on the Sports & Leisure Subcommittee for the Main Street Program in order to present a paddlers’ perspective. The Main Street Program was designed to assist small communities in evaluating various downtown redevelopment ideas to promote economic benefits. About this same time I heard about the 2007 Whitewater Courses and Parks seminar being presented at the Wisp Resort and Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) Whitewater course in McHenry, MD.
I suggested that someone from either the City of Kent or the Main Street Program should attend this informative conference if the City was serious about determining options for enhancing whitewater in Kent. After all this is Ohio the land of no whitewater so if you want some without driving several hours you need to make it; and this seminar was all about making whitewater. In the back of my mind I was hoping they suggest that I go since one of the tours offered was “on the water” before the park is even opened to the public. Well they agreed to cover my reservation fees if I was willing to be their fact finder, so I figured the least I could do as part of my public service to the community was to volunteer my time.
Reservations were made and conversations suggested that participants “may” be able to paddle their own kayaks. Hmm, this was sounding better all the time! Now if only the weather was warmer since forecasts were predicting highs in the low 40s. So I pack my gear and head towards MD. Around Morgantown I notice snow on the ground and coming into MD there is ~6 inches on the ground from last weeks’ storm.
I arrive in time for lunch and sit at table that included John Anderson, one of the architects on this project. We get some first hand knowledge of the design and features of the park before the “dry tour”. The “dry tour” is just that, no water in the course so we can see the features and design layout. They discuss the “wave-shapers” and how they can be adjusted to maximize features. They talk about how all rocks were inventoried and catalogued (some numbers were still present on them) to make sure that placement used the best ones for the design features. These guys are serious! The bottom of the “river” is shaped concrete to allow better flow of the water through the course.
The course is supplied with water that is pumped from Deep Creek Lake to the top of the mountain and stored in a small reservoir (13 million gallons) that doubles as storage for snow making in the winter. Up to four pumps deliver water into the course and flows can be adjusted to create Class I through IV rapids. In addition, two of the wave-shapers (Features A & D) have adjustments on both the upstream and downstream sides which coupled with the pumping variations provide a wide range of paddling experiences. The wave-shapers that are equipped with upstream adjustments allow the upstream pools to be flooded and submerge most of the rocks for lower class paddling. The flow was around 450 cfs for the “on the water” tour with 3 pumps operating for Class IV conditions. The course has an overall drop of 25 feet over its quarter mile (100 fpm) and representatives indicated that the time required to change from Class I to Class IV is about 20 minutes.
After getting ready in the locker rooms which included heated floors (a nice feature on this cold day) everyone was ready to try the course in guided rafts. Well, everyone except Scott Shipley, Charlie Walbridge, Risa Shimoda who went straight to their kayaks along with some other safety boaters. The raft guides talked about the course features during the ride which was a good time. At the end, they announced that all private boaters could paddle while they continued raft tours.
Everyone puts in the Starting Pool below the pump discharge area. The pump discharge creates some nice surfing waves and a great area for warming up with power ferries or roll practice. I didn’t take advantage of the roll practice (mistake #1). The discharge port has some wings on the sides and seems to be similar to a wave-shaper so the output feature can be varied. Surfing in this pump discharge was a little tough to get on, but once in rides were fast.