KEARNEY — The leader of the Kearney Whitewater Association said “people will come out in droves” to experience the excitement of kayaking and canoeing the whitewater section of the Kearney Water Trail when it’s completed in spring 2022.
“It will be really exciting. Everybody’s been waiting for something like this for a long time,” said Zach Nelson, KWA president.
Nelson was in the gallery Tuesday evening when the Kearney City Council approved plans and specifications for the whitewater section, or what engineers call the “drop structure.”
In order to create artificial rapids to challenge kayakers and canoeists, there must be a spot where the water level drops abruptly. When the whitewater project is complete, there will be a pair of drop structures in the canal near Kearney Cinema 8. That section flows beneath Second Avenue in south Kearney, so motorists will get a glimpse of the action as paddlers negotiate the rapids.
The drops will be moderately challenging, but Nelson — an experienced kayaker — said many people will spill before they get the hang of shooting through the whitewater.
“I think everyone is going to tip at least once on this one,” he said.
Nelson said the Lyons, Colorado, whitewater design firm S20 Design and Engineering is planning the drops so paddlers who spill will be able to recover easily and safely.
Nelson said tipping over is part of the experience.
“I did the American River in California some years ago. I took my rec boat out and was completely outclassed by the other paddlers, but I never tipped,” he said.
The city of Kearney’s Park and Recreation Department and KWA have been working on the whitewater project for about 10 years with S20.
As planning nears the point where the city can call for bids, the Park and Recreation Department has committed $400,000 and KWA has raised nearly $200,000, according to Park and Recreation Director Scott Hayden.
“One of the structures will be located just west of Second Avenue and the other just east of Second Avenue,” Hayden said. “In addition, substantial shoreline improvements and beautification will be included.”
Some of the shoreline work will provide prime viewing spots so people can get close to the action while paddlers enter and exit the drops.