The Wintering Grounds: Playboating in the Southeast

As summer started to wind down and the inevitable bite of the fall air settled into New York, my friends and I started to look ahead to the end of paddling season. With the snow still far from rideable, a conversation was started--what if we didn’t have to stop kayaking just because it was December? 

    Enter - The Wintering Grounds

    Columbus, Georgia is a quiet city located in southwestern Georgia. This city, affectionately referred to as “The Wintering Grounds” by those who know it, is slowly but surely turning into the place to be if you are looking to keep your paddling season going through the winter months. Columbus has put a ton of effort and time into creating the RushSouth Whitewater Park. This park is a mixture of man-made whitewater features, as well as natural flow channels, located on the Chattahoochee River. It was designed to provide a challenging and exciting experience for kayakers of all skill levels. If you are worried about conditions because it's “winter,” there is no need to fear. The water may have been chilly, but the air was warm and the weather was excellent! 

    Speaking of kayakers of all skill levels, my friends and I were the perfect representation of varying abilities during our most recent trip down south. Whereas most of my friends were former sponsored boaters and kayaking instructors, I arrived in Columbus with nothing but a pretty solid roll, a Jackson Rockstar V, a dream to successfully complete a flat-spin and exit the wave clean. It was my first time in a playboat and despite this, I found the waves easy to get onto and forgiving when I inevitably got washed out. I would have definitely been much worse for wear if it hadn’t been for a pair of pogies and a killer dry top, but with the afternoon sun the air warmed up and made excellent conditions. Thanks to there being multiple waves to hit I was able to gain confidence and get great practice at Ambush, while my more experienced friends made their way to Good Wave to get some killer action. By the end of the trip I was able to complete my mission and leave the Wintering Grounds a very happy paddler.

     Ben catching the wave and completing his first successful freestyle spin 

      RushSouth Whitewater Park

      This park features several different channels that are designed to mimic the natural flow of a river, with varying degrees of difficulty. Starting at the top of the run, there is the wave nicknamed “Ambush.” Ambush is a smaller wave with a tricky move to get into it, but once in it, it is a great wave for beginners and experts alike to hone their skills and get a feel for being hooked on a wave.

      hooking onto Ambush

      Hooking onto Ambush was an incredible feeling

       

      As one travels down the river there are several rapids and different channels to choose from, each providing something fun and different! Following the rapids you come to the last feature of the park, the Wave Shaper. Wave Shaper is the product of the city of Columbus removing two dams on the Chattahoochee resulting in the aptly-named “Good Wave.” Good Wave is a world-class whitewater feature that has been home to numerous whitewater festivals as well as several Freestyle World Championships. 

      Alex crushing Good Wave

      Alex feeling himself on Good Wave 

      Lasting Impressions

      Overall, the RushSouth Whitewater Park is a great place for those who want to experience the thrill of whitewater kayaking in an accessible and more controlled environment.* Whether you're a beginner or an experienced kayaker, there's something for everyone at the park. RushSouth is open to the public and is typically busiest on weekends and holidays. There are several local outfitters that offer kayak rentals and guided tours, making it easy for visitors to experience whitewater kayaking without having to bring their own gear. ​​If you find yourself in the area, check out our friends over at Whitewater Express for great guided tours and all the gear you could need or want!

       

      *Please remember that even paddling in whitewater parks has its risks. Obey safety warnings and signage, and never paddle above your skillset or without the proper safety equipment. Always follow the rules of the park and be aware of your surroundings when participating in any whitewater activity.

       

      Ben Thornton joined the CKS Crew in 2022 as a Gear Expert. His role at the company has now expanded into sales and buying as well, but more importantly, he's well on his way to becoming a really good kayaker! Way to get after it, Ben.

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