Making Waves

Deere CTL Helps Build State-of-the-Art Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking Center

artist rendering of park

The way the John Deere 329E Compact Track Loader (CTL) navigates through the channels of the RIVERSPORT Rapids whitewater-rapids facility, you'd think the operator might be trying out in the Olympic Trials for kayaking that will be held here in May 2016. "You'd never believe that something this small would have that much power," says operator Jack Knox, dirt superintendent for Downey Contracting.

The contractor is using the CTL for final grading the bottom of the channels. When it opens in Spring 2016, the $45.2-million RIVERSPORT Rapids center will be only one of a few such facilities in the world. It will feature two recirculating channels — one recreational and one expert — to accommodate both novice and experienced paddlers alike.

The 11-acre site requires a lot of dirt moving —in addition to cutting the channels, about 115,000 cubic yards are being brought in for the project. Downey Contracting in Oklahoma City is doing the dirt work, as well as the utilities and most of the concrete structures.

"Our Deere excavators and crawler dozers are doing the bulk of the dirt moving. But we use the 329E to get into tight areas. With its compact size, it is a lot quicker and more efficient. And when we're done building the channel walls, we'll use it for backfilling and moving pipe or rock. It's just great."


Unlike wheeled machines that are up a creek without a paddle, so to speak, the 329E thrives in the sandy soil of the channel. "A rubber-tire machine just doesn't cut it here," says Knox. "It gets stuck. With its high-flotation tracks, the 329E gives you plenty of traction. You never get stuck on the side of a hill — it just goes. It's great."

The 329E's patented boom design clears high sideboards and even dumps to the center of tandem-axle trucks. "It has plenty of reach to load a dump truck. For a little machine, you can do quite a bit of truck loading fairly quickly."

The small but mighty CTL is equally adept at unloading trucks, helping the dozers handle dirt that is being hauled in to backfill around the channels. As many as 12 trucks haul in up to 220 loads a day. "I push dump-truck loads with it — about 10 yards of dirt each — and it never loses power. It always keeps up, and it can do multiple trucks in a row if I need it to. It's a really sturdy little machine and pretty useful."

It’s a great product – the best out there.

Larry Downey
Larry Downey
Owner, Downey Contracting


You don't often hear "comfortable" and "compact" used in the same sentence. But Deere can make that claim about the 329E with a straight face. "It's like riding in a luxury vehicle, with plenty of room, a comfortable seat, and a highly efficient HVAC system. I'm not the biggest guy out here, but I'm not a small guy either. Large entryways and flat floors make it easy to get in and out, and provide plenty of legroom. And visibility is great."

Knox likes the electrohydraulic (EH) Joystick Performance Package. "You can control boom and bucket speeds for slow, normal, and fast response. Creeper control allows slow travel speeds with full hydraulic power, which is great for fine grading. It's all right there at your fingertips."

Everything is push-button easy. "With Quik-Tatch™, you can quickly switch attachments without getting out of your cab. Just press a button to unhook a bucket and pick up forks or another attachment and go. "You just can't go wrong with a John Deere CTL — everything is very nice!"

Plus service and support from Downey Contracting's local John Deere dealer has been excellent. "So many equipment manufacturers' dealerships take a couple of days to get around to what you need. Our John Deere dealership takes care of it that day. I can't say enough about them. They are always on it. If I call and check about something, they'll tell me it's already done. I'm like, 'What? I feel like I just called you about 10 minutes ago (laughs).' They're phenomenal."

Approximately 2,000 people will be able to raft the RIVERSPORTS Rapids center when it's completed, making it one of the biggest rafting facilities in the world. The channels are powered by six pumps capable of circulating 82,000 gpm each — or 492,000 gpm. It would take 80 seconds to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. The freestyle channel at the RIVERSPORT Rapids facility will be the highest-volume pumped-whitewater channel in the world.