Wausau’s Water Work
our eastern neighbor has been quietly rocking their river SINCE the ‘70s
Though it has gained international recognition since its creation more than 30 years ago, Wausau’s whitewater course is still a hidden gem, a small offshoot of the hardest working river in Wisconsin.
The course, located just a few blocks from downtown Wausau, was created from a bypass channel at a Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) dam on the Wisconsin River. Development of the course began in the mid-1970s when local kayaking enthusiast Bill Rypstat, lamenting the debris that had piled up in the channel over the years, talked to Bob Walraven, the then manager of WPS. The company began releasing water from the river into the channel in November of 1974 to experiment with water levels, and the first small competition was held in 1975.
During the two weeks paddlers from around the world were in the area, the event brought an estimated $2 million into the local economy.
The Wausau Canoe/Kayak Corporation, a group who strives to grow the sport, formed in the early 1980s and has made continual improvements to the course in the last 30 years, including adding a concrete berm to the top of the course to control water flow, adding boulders to the channel to create a better design for a whitewater course, and adding amenities for spectators. Since then, the course has been home to several local, national and international canoeing and kayaking competitions.
The Canoe/Kayak Corporation hosts several recreational releases each summer, in which paddlers can come to use the course for a small fee. The events generally bring in about 100 kayakers each weekend. Most recently, Wausau hosted the International Canoe Federation Junior and U23 Slalom World Championships, which brought in hundreds of competitors and their families from all over the world. During the two weeks the paddlers were in the area, the event brought an estimated $2 million into the local economy. – Carolyn Tiry