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Catch a Wave at Pennsylvania’s Holtwood Dam Whitewater Play Park

Have a playboat that’s been itching for a good surf but no where to go? It won’t be long until the brand new Whitewater Play Park below Pennsylvania’s Holtwood Dam can fulfill all your paddler desires.

After ages in the making with the help of PPL Electric, the Holtwood Play Park is just about ready to finally open its doors to the public. In years past, whitewater kayakers flocked to the dam for the unique playboating opportunities that high river flows offered. But due to recent hydroelectric expansions – which have done a great service for the environment but also hurt whitewater conditions– this stomping ground no longer held the same potential. The changes involved eliminating a set boulders that stood just past the dam, which helped to form the once-popular natural play area.

Local kayakers and paddlers all along the East coast alike have felt the loss of such an outstanding playboating hub. Here is where the park comes in: three artificial features will attempt to make up for the blow to the whitewater community. So far, it seems to be living up to that goal. Experts in freestyle kayaking have been testing the area over the course of the past few weeks, making adjustments as needed, and have walked away more than satisfied with the replacement.

The new park builds off of the western side of the dam, and includes two whitewater waves and a large hole before rejoining the natural flow of the river. The features have been specially constructed with experienced paddlers in mind, and allows for every playboater’s favorite tricks: surfs, spins, loops, squirts, cartwheels, and enders all take the stage here.

The area is limited to these intermediate and advanced paddlers. Swimmers and tubers are not allowed, and complete beginners are discouraged. The park, because of its manmade nature, also lacks the natural hazards that can detract from playboating and make the sport more dangerous. Without these potential distractions and dangers, playboaters are free to enjoy the park to its fullest extent.

Artificial parks like the one at Holtwood Dam have been building credibility in the paddling community over the past few years because of these substantial benefits, and by now have popped up in communities all across the country. Some of the most popular include the Charlotte Whitewater Center in North Carolina (where the U.S. National and Olympic teams practice) the Columbus Whitewater Park in Georgia (the longest urban whitewater park in the world), and the East Race Waterway in Indiana (the first whitewater park in the country). The Holtwood Dam Park will soon join the ranks of these manmade thrills, and East coast boaters are eager to see how it measures up.Holtwood Dam 3

PPL Electric has promised to release waters into the park for a fixed 264 hours per year, to keep from losing too much money or harming the surrounding environment. The full release schedule is available on the PPL site. Join your fellow boaters in celebrating the Holtwood Dam this fall – you could be part of the inaugurating class!

Photos courtesy of Holtwood Whitewater Park media,

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