A thing I learned today is that Oklahoma City has a boat district with a whitewater rafting course, which is the kind of hustle I admire in the capital of a landlocked state. And not, like, a dinky little rafting course either. Olympic kayakers train there.
Last summer the rafting drew visitors from all 50 states and several countries. (I called maybe two dozen restaurants, bars, and other local businesses on the district’s perimeter, and most of the people who picked up and were not mad that a journalist was asking them stuff during lunch rush said it seems like a mix of locals and tourists who go there.) By the description of people who have been on it, the man-made rapids course is even more intense than God-made ones, since rather than a few minutes’ intense paddling followed by an hour of floating downriver you’re pretty much just battling from start to finish. It’s popular enough to attract season pass-holders.
“We drive two-and-a-half hours to get there,” says Ron Middleswart, a firefighter who visits along with his daughter. “It’s awesome. I’ve met people from all over. We go all the time to meet people from all walks of life, everyone really outdoorsy, just fun, carefree people that enjoy being on the water.”
Middleswart went on a class trip with his 12-year-old daughter a year ago, “got hooked,” bought a season pass, and now visits with his daughter about once a week. “They also do firefighter training there, swift-water rescue,” he says. “I didn’t even know about that when I first started going there.”