Reno kayak park is popular with white-water enthusiasts |

Reno kayak park is popular with white-water enthusiasts

Karl Horeis
Brien Karlin, the teacher's aide for the University of Nevada, Reno, whitewater kayaking class, talks about the new park during the Reno River Fest. He says it doesn't replace down river paddling, but it's very convenient. Photo by Karl Horeis

Reno’s new Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield opened last month with the Reno River Festival. Fleets of paddlers in little red and yellow boats took turns surfing waves, rolling in the foam and throwing front flips to onlookers’ delight.

The new park is so convenient, it’s even accessible to boaters with disabilities.

“It’s a fantastic thing for Reno and the entire state of Nevada,” said Charles Albright, president of the Sierra Nevada Whitewater Club and former U.S. Olympic team member.

“It looks 10 times better than it did before.”

The city removed an old dam and modified the channels that flow on either side of Wingfield Park – an island in the middle of the river.

There are 11 “drop pools” for paddlers to play in – five in the north channel; six in the south. Drop pools are small waterfalls that create waves boaters can surf.

Current national champion kayaker Devon Baker came to town for the festival. She said there are similar parks in small Colorado towns like Steamboat and Salida, but nothing as big as Reno.

“This is one of the bigger cities to do one,” she said. “It’s great – it’s set up well, it’s convenient and it’s very safe. It’ll be great for getting the kids into it.”

She led a workshop for kids during the festival last week.

“It was really, really neat. They could sit on the rocks and watch kids their age kayak.”

The park is a great spectator venue with tourists and locals alike watching from the boardwalks, bridges and the grass of the park. No small towns in Colorado can claim to have a year-round white-water kayaking park located within walking distance of 24-hour casinos in the “Biggest Little City.”

When Joan Schield of Gig Harbor, Wash., came to town for a quick vacation, she had never seen white-water kayaking.

“I think it’s really exciting – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it,” she said. “We’ve been coming to Reno for years and I think what Reno has done with this area is fabulous. It’s a natural resource put to really good use. It’s good, clean fun.”

The Reno white-water run is about 2,600 feet long with north and south channels. It’s open to kayaks, canoes, rafts and inner tubes. Helmets and flotation devices are strongly recommended for safety.

Reno’s Brien Karlin, a teacher’s assistant for the University of Nevada, Reno kayaking class, is impressed by the park’s convenient location.

“Most kayaking trips are at least all-day affairs,” he said. “Here you can take a quick lunch break and get out on the water. It doesn’t replace down-river boating but it’s definitely a way to tide yourself over until you can get to a bigger river.”

Karlin, who has been paddling for two years, said the Truckee River’s nice drop in elevation creates surfable waves perfect for tricks like the cartwheel, flat spin, McNasty and helix.

On a scale of one to six – one being a lake, six being a waterfall – Reno’s park is a class two or three.

Equipment rental is available on the river from companies such as Tahoe Whitewater Tours. Kayaks are available for $25 an hour.

Kelly Troescher, a UNR nursing student, enjoys working at the company’s river-side rental booth.

“It’s way cool,” she said. “It’s so much fun because people are happy to be here.”

The city spent about $1.5 million on the park from a voter-passed statewide bond. During construction, about 7,000 tons of smooth, flat-topped rocks and boulders were installed along the river banks by Cruz Excavating of Incline Village.

For information on Reno’s new Truckee River Whitewater Park, go online to

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