How Can We Provide Sustainable Jobs for Great Falls and Increase Tourism in the Town?


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The Town of Great Falls

For over 100 years, the town of Great Falls, South Carolina, has been without its namesake Great Falls due to dams built by Duke Energy. However, a new project called the Great Falls-Dearborn Development project will be bringing the beautiful waterfall back! As part of the project, a new whitewater center, similar to the USNWC, will be built.

Great Falls has been economically depressed since the 1980s. According to American Whitewater, a whitewater center would bring $3.1-$4.6 million to Great Falls annually. This will provide an economic stimulus to the town.

The Goal

I designed the whitewater park that will be built alongside the Great Falls-Dearborn Development project, but I added the challenge of making it self sustaining. My hope in making it incorporate renewable energy is so that the center is not only providing jobs for operating the center, such as guest relations and raft guides, but also providing jobs in growing alternative energy technologies. The people of Great Falls will learn to work with wind energy, and in the future, Great Falls can become a hub of knowledge for alternative energy. Secondly, the people of Great Falls who may otherwise not have had an opportunity to work in novel technologies will now have this opportunity.

What is a Whitewater Center?

A whitewater center is an outdoor recreational facility promoting adventure and leadership in the outdoors. Centers have a variety of activites, from whitewater rafting and kayaking, to hiking and zipining. For this specific whitewater center, concrete will be poured over an existing river bed to make artifical rapids and space for a restaurant, raft center, zipline, kayak shack, and several kiddie spash pools.

Center Location

The center will be located close to Canal Street and Center Street in Great Falls. This whitewater center will differ from the U.S. Nation Whitewater Center in that instead of the whitewater center being artificially built on a plot of land and powered by the pumps, it will be built on top of an existing river bed. It it will be artificially created with concrete. Concrete will be poured over the river bed to create the skeleton for the other activites offered at the center (ie. dining, ziplining, rock climbing). The rapids in the whitewater channels of the center will be made by placing rocks and blocks at certain angles to create rapids. This along with an increased gradient of the river bed will result in world-class whitewater!

There is a hydroelectric dam just upstream of the site, so, when Duke Energy is using the water to create electricity, the river channel will be a bed of dry rocks. But when the dam releases water for recreation, it will bring the whitewater roaring to life

Creation of the Center

Currently, there is a small residentiary neighborhood in front of where the whitewater center parking lot will be. To enter the center, guests will have to travel through downtown Great Falls and through the neighborhoods. Some would argue that there should be a main road leading to the center, but I would argue that the point of the project is to bring economic stimulus to the town, and this can be done by having the tourists wander the streets of the town on their way in. If they suddenly get the urge for ice cream, they can stop by a locally run ice cream storet to fulfill their quench for ice cream, and also support the small businesses


The plans above show the location of the two centers. The first is in a 2D drawing, and the second is a 3D SketchUp Model of the center. 

What will be featured in the center? 

Ropes Course + Ziplines

The ziplines spread from one corner of the center to the other, with a midway stop at the restaurant. At the ropes course, there’s also the option to take a zipline into the water! The vertical ropes course instead of the typical layout is for the conservation of space. After all, if there is no room around, build up!

Conveyor Belt

The conveyor belt is located on the river left side of the whitewater center, close to the raft center so that it’s out of the way for families who are wandering the park. The conveyor belt will bring kayakers and rafters from the bottom of the center to the top so that they can run the channels again without having to get out of their boats. It’s conveniently located next to the raft center so that when the day is over, the rafts can be easily transported into the barn for storage.

Kiddie Pools

The kiddie pools are spread throughout whitewater center so that the kids can hop in whenever they want! This is similar to how in Disney world, there are splash pools everywhere in case kids want to splash around a cool off.

Whitewater+Flat Water Kayaking

Kayakers looking for a thrill can use the whitewater channels, but people looking to spend a chill time on the river can use the flatwater section. There are two separate buildings for flatwater and whitewater kayaking. The flatwater center is located near the corner of the parkinglot, and this is where all the rentable flatwatert kayaks will be stored. The yak shack where the whitewater kayaks are stored is near the ropes course

Raft Center

The raft center will be the main point for all rafters. Before the rafters go into the water, they must take a quick debrief to teach guests how to hold the raft paddle, what to do in case they fall in the water, and how to rescue someone who has fallen in the water. Inside the raft center, there will also be some shelves with snacks for hungry rafters.


The biggest building of the whitewater center is the restaurant. The restaurant is casual dining. All the hungry rafters and kayakers can come to this restaurant and sit at the outdoor tables, but families can also come and sit here and enjoy a nice lunch. On the roof of the restaurant, there is a zipline station. The zipline location on the roof of the restaurant ideal for conserving space in the whitewater center! 

How will the Center be Self Sustaining? 

The whitewater center will run on wind energy generated from these revolutionary wind energy trees.

These trees are 32-feet high structures that are scattered throughout the whitewater center. Each tree’s leaves are actually small wind turbines that generate power!

The trees will not only provide power to the center, they will also provide shade that is necessary in the blistering hot South Carolina summers. 

When there is no breeze, the center will run on the electricity produced by the hydroelectric dam that is just upstream. This way, the center is guaranteed to only run on renewable planet-friendly energy. 

Watch the short video below to learn more about this amazing invention that will be integrated into the Great Falls whitewater center. 



Answer the questions below to leave me some feedback!

  • What did I do well to promote the Sustainable Development Goals of Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, and Sustainable Cities and Communities?
  • What features do you think could be added to the center to further promote tourism?
  • Would you visit this whitewater center? What specifically would make you want to visit this whitewater center? 
  • Do you think that the addition of the wind energy trees brought something to the design? 
  • Do you think that this whitewater center was the best solution to bring an economic stimulus to the town of Great Falls? 


  1. This is fantastic! Great Job. We need more ideas like this.

  2. Awesome work! I like the design the wind turbines, especially if they are quiet as advertised.

  3. I love this! This entire design is so creative, I especially like how it’s self sustaining. The wind energy trees are really cool, and having the hydroelectric dam as backup energy is so smart!!

    Very funky and fresh 🙂

    1. Hi Jodie ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ

  4. Awesome!!! if you can image it, you can build it!

    1. As someone who frequents the white water center as a resource to get out and enjoy nature I think this is an amazing idea and can be beneficial in so many ways.

  5. Congratulations!!! Great work!!! Keep designing the future!!!

  6. I love this! Pairing a whitewater center and green energy seems like a perfect relationship. Bringing new technology and jobs to the area is a good way to interest and incentivize locals to get onboard/involved with the project. Additionally, I see potential for after school programs, youth programs, summer camps, sporting events, strengthening of local economy through out of town guests, etc. Let’s build it!

  7. Great job Laura!!! This is incredible. We would definitely visit.

  8. Amazing work, congratulations Laura!!!!!

  9. As a kayaker in training, I would love to have another Whitewater center nearby, and attract the many paddling enthusiasts in the North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina areas, bringing an influx of revenue to the town. The addition of the wind turbine trees is great, and the design features look really amazing! what a great idea!

  10. As someone who frequents the white water center as a resource to get out and enjoy nature I think this is an amazing idea and can be beneficial in so many ways.

  11. As someone who frequents the WWC quite often as a resource of enjoying nature and outdoor activities I believe this idea is so amazing and can be detrimental to improving so many things.

  12. Awesome! Love the Idea❤️

    1. Vert nice, congratulations Laura!!! What a great idea!

  13. Great initiative!

  14. So proud of you! 💗

  15. What a great project! Congratulations!

  16. Wonderful job!

  17. Laura. I love this work Your design is eco-friendly and guest focused. What a great destination and attraction for all!!

  18. Fantastic job Laura! As a family that enjoys the outdoors, we would visit a place like this center, especially since it has the potential for year round enjoyment. The wind turbine trees are amazing how they are functional and beautiful at the same time. Is it possible to add walking paths around the area? Some place where non-adventure seekers could roam while others kayak? I see so much potential for the surrounding area in the way of jobs, school trips, after school activities and more.

  19. Awesome project. Very interesting proposal. Indeed it will be very successful in such a nice place. Very good use of sustainable resources. Family Tribe Gatherings will be great in this space Very complete presentation! Congratulations.

  20. This looks like a great design to maximize the access to and use of this stretch of river while at the same time benefitting the local community financially and conserving resources with clean, renewable energy. (When will we be able to get those energy generating trees for our homes?)
    As a kayaker I would enjoy visiting this whitewater center for fun. As a social worker I would love to see a place like this create programs or partner with local agencies to introduce underserved youths and youths in crisis to outdoor activities like kayaking, ropes courses, and hiking.
    There is so much potential for a site like this and you have created a great design to get things started.

  21. Hi Laura! I really like the work that you cam up with an dhow your final touches made your project so good. I hope you see al this feedback from lots of different people and see how well you did with your project. The sketches and designs that you have still blow me away every time I see them. you did a great job with this project!

  22. Laura, wow this is so impressive! Your idea is so creative and definitely is a great solution to helping the economy of Great Falls recover. I think that you addressed sustainability goals very well through your hydroelectric dam and wind turbine trees. All of your attractions are great ideas but maybe you could also include a roller coaster or log flume ride for more tourism. I would definitely visit this whitewater center because I’m an adventure seeker and I have never seen anything like it before.

  23. I love it!!! looks fun and providing jobs, a great idea.

  24. This is a really cool idea, I like how you included several ways to make this a sustainable project including the wind turbine trees. The design of the building is very unique and the models you made illustrate this well.

  25. Nice work, Laura! Great idea! I love the tree shaped wind turbines! Good luck!

  26. I really liked the idea of the tree turbines, I think it not only adds a sustainable way to collect energy, but also it fits aesthically with the outdoor center. I think this idea in general is awesome because there is something for everyone of all ages, and the WWC in CLT is definitely one of my favorite places to go. Good job!

  27. I liked Laura’s project I could see how much time and thought she put into this project. I liked the images to help understand the project. The layout also showed how many other features this waterpark has to offer from water rafting to ziplining.

  28. This sounds like a great idea, good job!

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