Canopy Tours Offer High-Flying Thrills
Outdoor Insider Marie McAden zips across Academy Lake on Wildwater’s Chattooga Ridge Canopy Tour.
Man up, thrill seekers. The canopy tour — once reserved for jungle travelers — has gone mainstream.
Today, South Carolina vacationers can fly from treetop to treetop at the beach, in the mountains, and by the river. The heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping zip lines have become the eco-adventure of choice, drawing wannabe daredevils looking for a Tarzan-like rush without the risk.
Instead of a flimsy vine, participants are outfitted with helmet, gloves and full-body harness and then clipped to overhead cables by a zip line trolley and secondary tether. Having two lines attached to your harness ensures you are always secured by at least one lanyard as you move from holding cable to launch cable on each platform.
But that won’t stop your knees from knocking when you’re standing at the edge of a 75-foot tower preparing to step out into thin air.
And then there’s the little issue of speed. Rocketing toward a tree at 30 to 40 miles an hour might cause some to have midflight misgivings. But it’s easy enough to slow yourself down if you paid attention to the pre-departure instructions. Should you lose your head and come in hot, a trained guide is ready to stop you from having an unwelcome arboreal encounter.
Canopy tours typically begin with a zipping demonstration and practice run on a short cable not more than 10 feet off the ground. To ease the nerves of anxious participants, most offer a “bunny run” that serves as a warm up for what’s to come.
As you gain confidence in your zipping skills, the runs get higher and longer. Then just when you’re feeling comfortable zipping through the trees, they throw in a new challenge. You might have to walk across a wobbly sky bridge or inch your way along a slack line. Of course, you’re always safely secured to an overhead cable.
Each canopy tour has its own signature feature. It could be an extra long cable, dual racing zip lines or a run over a river or lake. Here is the Upcountry’s canopy tour offering:.
Well known for its whitewater rafting trips on the Chattooga River, Wildwater is home to the state’s first canopy tour. The three-hour Upstate adventure offers more than a half-mile of air time with 12 zip lines — six of them across a lake — and four sky bridges.
New this year is the Bell Tower Express, an 1,100-foot run that gives Wildwater bragging rights to the longest zip line in the state. From the 50-foot high tower, you get a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains.
Cost: $79 for adults, $59 for youth 18 and younger.
Contact: www.wildwaterrafting.com or (866) 319-8870
By Marie McAden, SC Insider