Reno: Skip the Casino… Go for the Whitewater

Casinos not your thing? Not mine either but my buddies and I found ourselves in Reno for an overnight stop on a road trip to California.

None of us were huge gamblers and we were tight on money. Maybe we weren’t ready for city lights after days of camping in the mountains. The lights were bright, the sounds loud, and the casinos smokey. We quickly grew tired of this urban jungle and retired to our room for the night.

All hope was not lost for Reno though. We quickly discovered there was an urban whitewater park in the center of town. The city had poured money into creating a spot that generate class II-III pool drop rapids on a year round basis. This sounded like a recipe for fun to us.

After some continental breakfast at our hotel, we made our way down to the Truckee River. The Truckee runs through scenic Wingfield park in the heart of Reno. The water levels in September meant the south channel was a little too rocky to paddle in so we settled for a few runs on the north channel.

I got into the chilly water and hopped into my packraft. We had scouted the rapids and they looked fairly manageable. I slowly paddled towards the first drop. A crowd of homeless men had gathered on the river bank to watch the tourist try and paddle the river in Fall. A street preacher yelling about damnation just added to the atmosphere.

Just like that and the first drop was over. My packraft took on some water but nothing I couldn’t manage. I paddled towards what I believed was going to be the best angle on the next drop.

It initially appeared that I handled the next drop with ease. As soon as I hit the standing wave at the bottom, I was proven very wrong.

The one fault with my packraft proved to be my downfall. It folded allowing water in and the resulting weight shit threw me into the water. It was no big deal. After a good laugh and a cold swim to shore, I was back and ready to finish the course.

The rest of the drops were handled easily and I made my way to shore. We each took turns paddling in the park. Reno had redeemed itself.

Many Canadian cities could learn from the urban whitewater parks found in the United States. It’s a great way to draw outdoor enthusiasts to your community.

Things to Know

    Watch for hazards in the river. I encountered a sunken shopping card underneath one of the bridges.
    This river is used by locals for fishing. Try to coexist with the local fishermen.
  • We hit up Sierra Hot Springs in the afternoon that day. It’s a pretty unique place but I’ll let you figure out why for yourself.

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