Recreational HydraulicsWhat We Can Do:

Many major cities and communities worldwide are revitalizing their river corridors for recreation. In many cases, replacing dangerous hydraulic structures with naturalized "whitewater parks" has provided many public benefits. Although usually designed for canoeing and kayaking, "playwave" features are fun for swimming, wading, and viewing, and also provide fish passage.

Ken Christison
Tom Demlow
British Columbia:
Ken Christison
Ed Wallace
Brad Hall
Marc Villeneuve
Asia and Africa:
Mike Okun
Latin America:
Guilherme deLima
NHC provides technical support to develop whitewater parks from concept to completion. A phased step-by-step approach improves cost-effectiveness and allows for client participation in planning, design, and construction.


Our recreational hydraulics services include:

  • Site Assessment
    Examining the site potential for the suitability for creation of a whitewater park (also called a pre-feasibility evaluation).
  • Feasibility Assessment
    Focusing on a hydraulic assessment as well as the preliminary design for the whitewater park.
  • Consulting Assistance
    Recommendations on the best way to move forward with approvals, permitting, and public interaction.
  • Modeling
    Physical modeling, numerical modeling, and detailed design.
  • Construction
    Assistance and supervision during the project’s construction phase.
  • Evaluation
    Post-construction assessment of whitewater performance and safety.


The diversity of whitewater parks and playwave zones constantly supplies NHC with engineering challenges and creative inspiration. As demand for our recreational hydraulics expertise began to grow in the early part of the 2000s, we have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of structures, hydraulic conditions, and project objectives for international government agencies, private industry firms, general consulting engineers, and recreational organizations across the globe.

Past examples of our projects include:

  • Structure Modification (Calgary, Canada)
    Modeling, design, construction supervision, and post-construction evaluations for Bow River Weir Project in Calgary, the world’s largest whitewater park.
  • Urban Revitalization (Kongsberg, Norway)
    Pre-feasibility and design feasibility studies to develop a whitewater park in downtown Kongsberg; detailed design through physical modeling.
  • Recreation at Hydropower Projects
    Evaluating the potential for maintaining or providing new recreation uses at many hydroelectric generating sites and facilities.
  • Design Assistance
    Many projects that combine habitat restoration with flood management, recreation, channel stabilization, infrastructure development, and other objectives.

Physical modeling of Calgary Bow River Weir Project

Post-construction evaluations, Calgary, Canada

Design feasibility study and physical modeling, Kongsberg, Norway

Advisory assistance for London 2012 Olympic whitewater course
, England

Technical Approach & Capabilities:

  • We develop a custom approach to modeling methods and techniques for each project.
  • We use physical modeling to develop and refine project designs. For example, constructing and testing a physical model of a whitewater park can produce insightful and revealing feedback from both internal project members as well as from the public.
  • NHC gets it right the first time: successful physical modeling allows every side to share their thoughts and input at the design phase, eliminating costly last minute alterations in the post-construction work phase.
  • In some instances, we employ a hybrid approach using numerical modeling and in-house physical (scale) modeling. This provides a cost-effective method to develop and compare alternative solutions.

Benefits & Results:

  • Our services provide the means to successfully design whitewater parks and avoid the need for costly post-construction changes.
  • A step-by-step approach to projects with thorough hydraulic analysis and design results in high-quality playwave features that can be enjoyed by diverse user groups.
  • As a result, many communities are realizing positive social and economic benefits from local whitewater parks.