Whitewater in Kentucky
Whitewater Parks Must Keep It Real
Posted: 5/21/2005 09:01 pm

The Truckee River Whitewater Park in downtown Reno has been one of the great success stories in recent years.

It’s proved to be enormously popular — not just with kayakers but also with rafters, tubers and waders. Equally important, it’s changed the way the residents of the Truckee Meadows view the river, which, when it wasn’t being dammed or damned, was largely ignored.

Now the Truckee River Whitewater Steering Committee wants to expand the concept, with four more parks: at Rock, Idlewild and Ambrose parks, and at the Pioneer diversion dam.

The idea deserves support.

It’s critical, however, that the Truckee River not be turned into a theme-park ride, full of concrete twists and fake rapids.

One of the most important ideas to come out of planning for a project to prevent a repeat of the New Year’s Flood was recreating a “living river.” Instead of more flood walls, the river was to be given the freedom to meander and spread out when necessary, as rivers are inclined to do when man doesn’t interfere.

That idea should follow through to the whitewater parks. The downtown project is a good model (despite the concrete that holds it all together). Dams were removed and replaced with natural rock that created swirls, meanders, rapids and eddies. The project actually improved a section of river that, for decades, had been walled in and tightly controlled (except, of course, in flood conditions).

Other sections of the river are freer, and for walkers and cyclists who use the trail along the river in Reno and Sparks, that’s the way it should stay. Planning for the additional whitewater parks must take that into consideration.

There’s no question that expansion of the successful concept could put the Truckee River on the adventure map: Attracting kayakers and tourists to the nation’s only whitewater “trail.”

Let’s not forget, however, that the Truckee is a real river (with the spring runoff that has the river running high and wild this week, it would be hard to forget), and that’s the way most residents want it to stay.

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