Rapid magazine’s top picks for class III Spring park and play rivers, perfect for practicing your freestyle moves.
BLADDER WAVE, Main Payette, ID
Found at the bottom of the Gutter section of the Main Payette, Bladder Wave has multiple personalities. It gets its name from the inflatable dam that creates the wave. When the volume of air in the dam changes or shifts, Bladder Wave can morph from an easy-to-catch, glassy smooth wave to a burly hole in seconds. It’s in during spring runoff and at high water levels—10,000 plus cfs. Keep an eye on local flow info and an ear out for rumors of when this shy wave will show its face.
The wave is only a half-hour outside of Boise. Take State Highway 55 north out of town. Hang a right on Pioneer Avenue before crossing the bridge over the Payette that takes you into Horse- shoe Bend. Drive for about two miles; when you see the access on the left, turn towards the water and park.
HELL HOLE, Middle Ocoee, TN
Pay homage to rodeo boating’s roots at Hell Hole, the birthplace of freestyle kayaking. There are access eddies on either side of the wave and boaters confidently push the limits knowing they will be flushed out if they misread. Tons of pros practice here so you’ll have plenty of chances to get pointers from seasoned freestylers. Getting a ride is well worth the wait in line. It’s runnable at levels between 900 and 2,500 cfs. Check with the Tennessee Valley Authority for dam release info.
Jackson Rock Star
Take the I-75 north from Chattanooga, and then head east on Route 64 until you can see the Ocoee on your right. Hell Hole is next to the powerhouse. Park along the road or at the take-out a half-mile or so down the 64.
CROWE BRIDGE, Crowe River, ON
This play spot in the heart of eastern Ontario’s spring creek playground has a feature for everyone. At spring highs, the wave train is just right for surfing with short boats. First in the lineup is a 40-foot-wide, flat, glassy wave with room for multiple riders. The next feature is a foamy hole followed by a third wave that steepens during runoff. Look for gauge readings of 100 cms or higher for prime conditions. Bring your camera and a friend to take your picture—the bridge overhead offers a perfect view.
Wave Sport Fuse
From Highway 7 between Havelock and Marmora, head south on County Road 50. Hang a left on 13th Line and then a right on Crowe River Road. Stop when you get to the bridge—mind the no parking signs.
This article originally appeared in Rapid, Spring 2011. Download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.