NOTE: The East Race Waterway is now CLOSED for the season.
Thrill seekers don’t need to stray far from the beaten path in The Bend when looking their next adventure. Located right in downtown South Bend, the East Race Waterway offers the challenge of a white water rafting course without having to leave the city. It’s one of our premier attractions. And one you don’t want to miss on your next visit.
Know Before You Go
The East Race is open for the season, which runs until Aug. 30. Special open dates are Sept. 6 and Sept. 13. Hours are noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays. Visitors are encouraged to purchase ride passes in advance.
MORE INFORMATION: Purchase Your Passes
Some coronavirus-related changes will be in place to keep rafters safe. Equipment will be sanitized between uses and park staff will ask visitors to keep social distancing in place while they wait in line.
Here are some other things to know before making a trip down the rapids:
- Rubber-soled shoes with a heel strap are required.
- No flip flops or sharp jewelry/objects.
- All rafting equipment is provided.
- Kayakers are welcome, but must supply their own equipment.
- Required height for rafting is 54 inches.
- Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult in the raft.
- Bringing an extra set of clothes and towels is recommended.
- There are no changing rooms, but a handicap accessible restroom facility is available.
- Outdoor rinse shower also available.
East Race History
Before transforming into the first man-made white water rafting course built in North America, the east race helped shape South Bend into a city of industry. Companies in South Bend for years relied on the east race to heat and power their factories using a steam-powered generator.
Industry blossomed along the races by the mid-1800s. Eventually, industrial giants of the time like Oliver Chilled Plow Works and Studebaker utilized the races. Oliver Chilled plow purchased the west race in 1903 and constructed a power plant. It eventually provided electricity to factories, the Oliver Opera House, Oliver Hotel and other buildings.
Later, the east race fell into disuse. It was filled in and leveled off. The area remained undeveloped into the 1970s. But by the early 1980s, momentum pushed the east race toward redevelopment.
Unleashing the Rapids
The East Race Waterway opened in 1984. It has continued to shape South Bend, only in a different way. The waterway now churns out Class 2 rapids, summer fun and lifelong memories for the rafters that test their skills.
Every steep drop and big splash are part of the thrill of white water rafting in downtown South Bend. You may even hit one of the rapids and be thrown into the water.
Many say you haven’t truly experienced the East Race until you end up in the water! Enjoy what might seem like defeat. You’ll belly laugh as your friends and family try to pull you back into the raft before the next big rapid.
You and your fellow rafters will have to work together to keep a steady path as you battle all the twists and turns along the 1,900-foot long course. Don’t be surprised if you want to give it a go again after finishing.
Even better: If you have even five minutes free, you can take a ride down the East Race! This is fun for any family or group of friends to enjoy.
Rafts vary in size and can accommodate between two and five people per ride. This course is great for rafters of all skill levels. If you prefer kayaking*, you can do that as well on the East Race.
Connected walkways and bridges along the course allow family and friends to cheer you on and take photos of your journey down the rapids.