Professor Paddle: Dickerson Course in D.C.
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TastyWaves
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  Quote TastyWaves Replybullet Topic: Dickerson Course in D.C.
    Posted: 11 Dec 2010 at 8:01am
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I had a good time paddling this course while I've been out here in D.C. They say its a class IV, that's debatable but surely its a FUN III+ with continuous, powerful water and about 5 fun playholes basically one after another.

Its the runout from a Myrant Power plant, they do some type of energy production, I think coal burning, that requires water to filter into these tanks in order to cool them down, so the water comes out warm (75 degrees or so) and then pumps into this whitewater park the D.C. community has strategically placed there. They use it for training the US Olympic Slalom team, and one can get a pass to run it as well.

But it isn't as Utopic as you guys might think, a local kayak shop has basically monopolized the thing and deems themselves the judges of who can  or cannot paddle this thing. Their ultimate goal is to tell you that you aren't experienced enough so that you will pay them $160 per group of three to show you down. But then their supposed "guides" are a bunch of wannabee boaters, who don't bring anything special to the table. I got in on two open houses so it was $20 each time, but after they explained to me how the long term deal worked, it seemed like a joke.

To their credit, they do let you take a certification course to obtain the "blue card" and if you pass that test you can show up and paddle as long as you come with another blue card holder.

But essentially, this whitewater course isn't what it could be, a perfect winter training ground for people getting into the sport, because they have taken the purest thing about kayaking, its free nature, and turned it into a business model. 


Here is a link to the photo album, let me know if it doesn't work, I couldn't find a URL from anywhere within the gallery manager for posting:

http://www.professorpaddle.com/media/albumview.asp?album_id=791

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James
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 11 Dec 2010 at 9:13am
I woulda poached it... screw that nonsense. Thanks for the photos though that looks cool, next time I am back there I think I will check it out.
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Jimmy
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  Quote Jimmy Replybullet Posted: 11 Dec 2010 at 10:49am
The reality of it is that these things have to pay for themselves.  Sounds a little overboard in this case though.  I like the idea of a setting where restaurants/pubs/businesses have overhanging decks where people can spectate or take breaks and the businesses bring in revenue that way.  make the course easy enough that joe bob can float it in his walmart raft, maybe flip but get in no real trouble, and the kayakers still have a decent play spot - this would greatly increase the use if joe bob could use it too.  Brings in more people, no pay to play, business gets customers.
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TastyWaves
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  Quote TastyWaves Replybullet Posted: 12 Dec 2010 at 6:01pm
I could say that maybe in a big boating scene like in Colorado or California, not sure if it could happen in WA but who knows.

The interesting thing about the Dickerson course is that it actually doesn't really incur any expenses. All the water comes straight from the power plant, its water that they spit out anyway from their cooling tanks. So it just seems natural that kayakers would say let's boat that sh*t..

Not only are they poaching water, but they took the design from the 92' Olympic course in Barcelona, so they didn't have to take on any significant R&D costs I assume, just whatever it took to build the course from the existing plan.


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po_standish
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  Quote po_standish Replybullet Posted: 15 Dec 2010 at 8:44pm
Forgive me for the long post. Just trying to fill in some knowledge gaps on Dickerson.

The blue card seems like a big unnecessary pain, but is very valid. It's a bit complicated so it helps to understand the circumstances of the Dickerson course.

The course is physically located on the grounds of a high security power generation facility, Mirant. They own the course. Sorry, poaching would probably bring out the guys with guns.

BCE, or Bethesda Center for Excellence, is the non-profit organization that developed Dickerson for the '92 Olympics and continues to be the liaison organization that works to maintain paddler access on the Mirant Power Station property. A difficult job since the power plant could really give a damn about paddlers since we don't really make them electricity or money.

The program Liquid Adventures runs at Dickerson is a small component of their school. They issue the cards for access (mostly pink; i.e. pay $20 per visit to paddle) and the blue card test which allows two blue card paddlers to use the course whenever it's open within certain restrictions at no cost. There are a lot of rules. Why? Because a large utility company owns the property (and pays insurance) and requires the folks in charge of paddlers to ensure it is safe. If they gave out cards willy-nilly and some weekend warrior got hurt access for aspiring Olympic slalom boaters would suffer or simply be eliminated. It's really all about the slalom. The fact that aspiring creekers get to use it to train for their first Upper Yough run is just icing on the cake.

To paddle the course you need to donate $60 a year to a non-profit organization (BCE) that does a lot with that money for the local and national slalom paddling scene. Beyond that it costs $20 per visit to paddle the course if you don't have your blue card and you have to go with Liquid Adventures. You can also take a class with them for $60.  I've taken two while they were not ideal classes, their instructors are excellent and highly regarded--and yes, some are my friends with whom I boat regularly with.

The biggest groups of paddlers on the course are A) slalom boaters training and B) Liquid Adventure boaters who would like to be Upper Yough boaters and are working hard to get there. In the times I've been there mostly it's group B and is a swim fest. People challenging themselves in sometimes pushy, always technical water. It's fun to see. Particularly when you see people get better at the moves.

My biggest beefs at Dickerson are that for paddling on what is basically an industrial site you have to drive an hour from DC and it's been closed a ton since I've been a member due to power plant construction. And generally it doesn't really fit into my seasonal paddling schedule. A couple visits in the fall after Gauley season and before winter brings up the creeks is about all I think I'll make it there.

Some further information on the course:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dickerson_Whitewater_Course
http://bce-racing.com/blog/?page_id=154
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TastyWaves
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  Quote TastyWaves Replybullet Posted: 15 Dec 2010 at 9:19pm
I think everything is correct about your statement except:
"Beyond that it costs $20 per visit to paddle the course if you don't have your blue card and you have to go with Liquid Adventures. You can also take a class with them for $60."

The $20 per visit option only happens once in a blue moon (open house). For all the other weekends, unless you have a Blue Card, it is Mandatory to pay Liquid Adventures $180 per use of the course and have them as your guide/coach. Its $60 if you have three people and can split the $180..

That's what Tom from Liquid Adventures explained to me over the phone



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po_standish
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  Quote po_standish Replybullet Posted: 16 Dec 2010 at 7:46am
I would follow up with Nate, or even Tom again as that doesn't seem right.
 
I have never been to their fall open house, but I paddle it last weekend. My wife and I both paid $20 each for the day. We are both BCE members, which as I said early, is a requirement to access the course.
 
The following two items are copy and pasted from the online Liquid Adventure Dickerson registration page (free registration to see it):
 
"Coached session designed to improve your skill in hard whitewater ($60 for 1, $150 for  3)"
 
"Pink and Blue card holders can work out on their own(cost $20)"
To get your pink card all you have to do is sign up with BCE (pay your 60 bones for the year) and Nate over at Liquid Adventures sends you the pink card.
 
I am on the fence for signing up for another year; $60 for BCE is steep since I can only seem to get to the course once or twice a year. Though this year you get three free passes to the other whitewater course, ASCI, in Western MD. A $75 value.
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  Quote James Replybullet Posted: 16 Dec 2010 at 8:31am
so now with all that information... I would poach it with a flack jacket on !
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  Quote po_standish Replybullet Posted: 16 Dec 2010 at 9:01am
 that's awesome. Flack jacket=anti-PFD though. Great if you like to squirtboat.
 
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  Quote edickerson2 Replybullet Posted: 30 Apr 2012 at 12:24pm
This is my last name! I must run this...
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billhay4
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  Quote billhay4 Replybullet Posted: 07 Feb 2018 at 12:21pm
If you don't like this option, and I agree the rules are burdensome but what do you expect from a power company, go over to Great Falls or Little Falls. Real whitewater that runs most of the time.
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