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April 9, 2011

Visitors fly over the Catawba River on new zip line tour

A new zip line canopy tour debuts today in Rock Hill. The tour crisscross over the Catawba River in a series of nine zip lines, three suspension bridges and nature trails.

Nick Wimmer's a bit of an adventurer.

He camps, climbs and kayaks.

And now, he flies through the air 75 feet above the Catawba River hanging from cable wires strung through the trees.

You can, too, at Camp Canaan's new zip line canopy tour. It's the only canopy tour of its kind in York County.

"It's the first, biggest and best," said Wimmer, executive director of the nonprofit camping and recreational site in Rock Hill.

The canopy tour debuts today, but it's not for the weak of heart.

The high-flying adventure lets thrill-seekers zip through the treetops and over the Catawba River on a network of cables and pulleys high above the forest floor. Participants start at the top of a 70-foot tower and trek across nine zip lines, three suspension bridges and a series of nature trails on the three-hour excursion.

Between zips, participants get a bird's eye view of the river and woods from observation platforms.

"You might see a bald eagle or osprey," Wimmer said. "You'll see the dogwoods in bloom, and learn of the different flora and fauna here. It's all about the experience and the beauty of the Catawba River."

Safety first

Camp staff and volunteers worked with professionals at Signature Research to construct the course in compliance with guidelines provided by the Association of Challenge Course Technology.

Safety is a priority, so participants are double-clipped to a steel cable at all times and accompanied by professional guides. Riders wear gloves, helmets and climbing gear.

It's common for people to be nervous about taking that first leap.

"If people have a problem with heights, that's natural," Wimmer says. "We ensure safety. ... We help coach people along so they can take that first step off that tower. Seventy feet is tall - we don't minimize that - and it's a big step for a lot of people."

But it's worth it, Wimmer assures, calling the course a "great challenge, high adventure and overall incredible experience."

Canaan's program director, Matt Harper, who helped build the course, said most come to the camp with memories of a time when the 120-acre property was a primitive island with nothing but sand dunes and woods. Even seven years after the camp was established, many locals don't know it exists.

"We're the best kept secret in Rock Hill," Harper said. "But we're trying to change that."

The zip line likely will put the camp on the map and help boost local tourism. There are hundreds of canopy zip line tours across the world, but few in the Carolinas outside of the mountains. Some places have single zip lines but not a tour of back-to-back zips connected by platforms. The U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is adding a canopy tour April 13 that is also along the banks of the Catawba River.

The Canaan tour has been a dream of Wimmer's and his wife's since they took a canopy tour in Costa Rica 10 years ago on their honeymoon. They promised each other that, if given an opportunity, they would create their own tour. After years of planning and months of labor, that dream is a reality.

Want to go?

The zip line canopy tour at Camp Canaan is at 311 Sand Island Road, just off India Hook Road in Rock Hill.

Book before May 6 to get a discounted $55 rate on the canopy tour. Regular price is $65 for adults and $60 for those under age 18.

Moms are free for families who book an adventure on Mother's Day weekend.

Details, call 803-327-6932, email, or visit

See video of the zip lines below.

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