Churning, roiling water is not a welcome sight if you live along the Missouri River, but people in the northeast Iowa town of Charles City are pleased to see the river action. The city recently opened the state’s first whitewater park on the Cedar River stretching out some 1,200 feet from the town’s Main Street bridge. City administrator, Tom Brownlow, says the warmer weather has caused things to really pick up.
Brownlow says one of the goals was to bring kayakers to town and also give people in the town something to do. He says on hot days they have as many as 100 tubers on the course. Brownlow says they also thought the area would improve fishing, which some people didn’t believe, but he says they used to have three or four fishermen, and lately they’ve seen 15 at a time.
The course was created in a 23-acre open area that was mostly flood buyouts land. The Prairie Rapids Paddlers group of paddle boat enthusiasts based in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area came up with the idea for the whitewater course. Group spokesman Ty Graham of Cedar Falls says there was evidence to show the course would make an impact on the community.
Graham says statistics show that for every kayaker that would come to a whitewater destination, they would have four other people on shore. And each kayaker would spend approximately $75-a-day, while each person on shore would spend $45-a-day. Brownlow says they course is drawing people in.
He says they’ve had people from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska along with those from Iowa already come and kayak the course. “I had one of the actually tell me that you can’t find feature this fun within a thousand miles from here, so that is really gratifying to hear,” Brownlow says. Graham says the course is an example of how you can take a river problem and turn it into something that is valuable to a community.
“Yeah, this is a big whitewater park, but at the same time, this is an eye opener for the state of Iowa and every community that has a river running through it,” Graham says. He says it answers the question of what a city can to do make an environmentally responsible, economically viable project utilizing the river. Funding for the one-million dollar course came from the state, city and donors.