Whitewater Columbus, how it will affect you and the area - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Whitewater Columbus, how it will affect you and the area

By this time next year the City Mills Dam will be taken down, an entrance will be installed to the course, and rapids will be crashing into one another as folks from all over the country jump into the water.

Joey Robinson has been enjoying the new whitewater rapids since the first breaching of the dam in March. He says the entire course is not only going to be an amazing trek but will bring amazing things to the city.  "With this Whitewater course in particular it's very different from anything else in the southeast, it is on a natural river so it's nothing like Charlotte Whitewater Center where everything is manmade so we have much better features, much better rapids and it's much, much, larger than anything else in the Southeast."

Robinson, who also works at Outside World, says the two most prominent Whitewater courses in the Southeast, the Ocoee and the Nantahala, will be an eighth of what our course will be right here in the Fountain City.

They're already feeling the pressure at Outside World from people wanting to get in the water. "Right now we provide classes, we provide the boats and everything to get people out on the water, get them trained, so they understand safety hazards and the technique for getting out there paddling safely; so they can get out there and have a good time." Richard Bishop, President of Uptown Columbus says, "This is going to be an unbelievable impact for Columbus, Phenix City and this region."

A Columbus State Economic Impact Study estimated the course will bring 188,000 visitors and over $42 million into Columbus every year. This course will bring in people from all over the southeast who will eat, stay and shop in the fountain city.

We've seen and heard the construction of the course every step of the way but, where will the course begin? And how will it actually work? Bishop says, it looks like people will park downtown and get a ride up to the North Highlands area, where the entrance will be located.

"More than likely you'll have two options. One option, if the outfitters see fit, after you get all your tickets and things ready for the river you will get in to some sort of vehicle and they will transport you up here and drop you off here. That's an option. The other option that probably is the one we'll be going with is you'll have a tram that will run up and down the river walk that will bring the participants to this site."

You'll gather your gear and walk about 100 yards down to the water that will be right here off of the Riverwalk.

Right below the entrance point is the City Mills Dam, this will be the last thing taken out, which will give the second wave of rapids.

Uptown Columbus and City Leaders spent more than a decade studying other river, researching, meeting with agencies and planning how this course could work.

In fact, the engineer who designed Columbus' course, Rick McLaughlin, built the 1996 Olympic Whitewater course in the Ocoee River.

"We built a hydraulic model in Boston and modeled a portion of the river, actually that piece is right at Eagle Phenix Dam, [we] modeled that. We wanted to make sure all the hydraulics were working for what we were delivering at the end of this project. So we did do that and we've certainly been to other venues."

That Eagle and Phenix area is already living up to everything they wanted it to. The water will break around an Island and provide and Alabama channel and a Georgia channel.

"That will be the highlight of the ride and there's no question that will be an exciting ride. It's going to be long, and I use the word, wild." Robinson says, "The Georgia channel, that's going to kind of be an easier run if you're a little bit nervous, you can go down through that channel and a lot less consequences, a lot easier rapid to run. On the Alabama channel, it is much bigger, much more abrupt, and it is going to be a huge rapid that's where people who are really looking to run a big rapid and push their limits are going to be able to go."

In the next 6 months, a bridge will be built from the Riverwalk in front of the Synovus building to the middle island, allowing spectators to watch the kayakers or rafters come down through the Georgia channel, which is currently under construction.

"You see that diversion structure right there that's keeping the water over on that side and we can work in here all day long without any water."

When the Georgia channel is complete, the rest of the dam and the diversion structure will be removed.

After the Eagle and Phenix dam area, Whitewater enthusiasts will paddle on down to the end.

The longest urban white water course in the world will come to an end near the Dillingham Bridge. It's expected to take about 45 minutes to complete the 2-and-half mile trek, although that could take longer depending how long you take in the island area with the two channels.

Copyright 2012 WTVM.All rights reserved.

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A 50-foot section of the Eagle and Phenix Dam was blown away as part of the ongoing whitewater project. See Photos More>>

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