Midwest Living Review
Originally created in the 1840s as narrow channels along the sides of the St. Joseph River, the races were a way to harness waterpower for surrounding industries. Today that power makes it possible to enjoy white-water rafting along Niles Avenue. "We don't really have white-water rafting in the Midwest, so people get really excited to see this right in the heart of South Bend," said Paul McMinn, assistant recreation director for South Bend's Parks and Recreation Department. More than 9,000 enjoy water sports in the East Race each year -- mostly by raft. You can rent a two-, four- or five-person raft, or bring your own kayak. Rafters are required to wear shoes with a tie or heel strap (no flip-flops!), must suit up with a helmet and life vest at the entrance, and should expect to get a little wet. There are no changing facilities, but a handicapped-accessible portable restroom facility is available during the season, along with an outdoor rinse shower. The races are just 1,900 feet, so the ride is about five minutes long, and the current is usually set at a moderate pace (although it can be slowed down or sped up). "If you're afraid of the water, then it's not for you," Paul says. While the water is less than 4 feet deep, the current prevents you from standing up in spots. Your chances of tipping or getting soaked are reduced by getting the largest raft. But, even if you opt not to raft, it's a blast to see rafting in the heart of downtown. Grab an ice cream cone and a camera! The rafting season runs June through August. Raft rides cost $5 per trip, or you can kayak (with your own equipment) for $15 a day.