For whitewater sports enthusiasts, one of the best benefits of whitewater parks is the recreational opportunities. A 2003 study by the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade organization, documented that whitewater kayaking experienced a 14% increase in participation over the previous year. The study also found that 12 million people went whitewater rafting in each of the previous two years.
From the perspective of the paddler, whitewater parks offer enhanced recreational opportunities. Well designed and operated facilities will attract paddlers from other regions and provide avenue for safety training, paddling techniques and competitions. One of the recent trends in whitewater recreation especially for kayakers and canoeists has been the importance of "park and play” spots. A "park and play” spot is a location on a river which is easily accessible and attractive to paddlers due its’ hydraulic characteristics. Whether it is a "hole”(standing wave with recirculating water created by an underwater obstruction), a "haystack”(series of waves that are generally formed by two channels of water converging at high velocity) or other hydraulic features, park and play spots are popular for practicing rolls, self-rescue techniques, and perfecting other difficult moves such as aerial tricks. The special hydraulic conditions which make park and play spots popular can be created in whitewater parks through careful design and construction. In a whitewater park environment, the difficulty of these special hydraulics features can be adjusted by varying water flow rates and positioning of the underwater or surface water obstructions that are constructed as the park is built. Whitewater parks provide easier accessibility to such features and this access improvement in combination with active control structures means enhanced safety. Improved safety and accessibility (as compared to that typically found in natural settings) offer the opportunity to make the sport a more family friendly endeavor. Whitewater parks provide a multi-use area which is safe and encourages responsible recreation use.From Whitewater Parks by Zach Cannody - Virginia Polytechnic Institute