Our Approach

Our mantra: right the wrongs of the past and leave the river better than we found it

Our deep experience, passion and track record sets us apart. We design community river projects that leave rivers in better condition, elevate the recreational experience and unlock their full potential. Our projects connect communities to rivers through recreation while bringing transformative change for the people, water, and local economies.

The Mclaughlin Difference

We’re in this business because we believe in power of urban river
restoration to deliver positive environmental, social and economic benefits.

River park projects represent an opportunity to bring world-class whitewater recreation to your community. Excellent whitewater design has the power to transform communities and attract athletes and recreationalists from across the globe.

Enhanced Recreation

River health is a cornerstone of all our projects. We strive for resilient rivers with healthy ecosystems and native habitats. Rivers, especially in urban areas, have been used and abused. We aim to right these wrongs through comprehensive restoration and ecosystem enhancements.

Restored River Health

River projects restore communities by bringing them together. They create a vibrant oasis in the heart of the community, helping people reconnect with nature, build healthy lifestyles, and spend more time with friends and family outdoors.

Stronger Communities

River projects consistently spark economic growth. They benefit local and regional economies by creating jobs, enhancing property values, attracting new businesses and residents, increasing tax revenues, and boosting tourism.

Improved Economies

We design and build sound, innovative engineering solutions that restore rivers. They bring together infrastructure like dams and diversions with recreation, safety, and river health to shape the future of rivers and communities alike. Our body of work proves our philosophy: environment, community, and recreation can coexist in harmony.

Balanced Solutions



Our patented WaveShaper Adjustable River Waves are the gold standard for river park recreation.

We are the only whitewater firm to reliably create resilient, world-class river waves for surfing and kayaking across a variety of sites. Innovations in adjustable waves through our patented WaveShaper technology create bigger, better, and more consistent river waves for all river users.

Our innovation continues as we lead the way in designing world-class river surf waves, which provide a fun alternative to ocean waves for inland surfers. Our team has surfed over 50 river waves (and counting) around the world. Our surf wave in Austria has been called the “best manmade river wave in the world” by top pro river surfers.



Whitewater recreation can be hazardous, particularly where large infrastructure is involved.

Our projects have stellar safety records despite featuring some of the biggest waves and most powerful whitewater completed to date. Safety forms the foundation of every McLaughlin project and our safety record is unmatched in the whitewater industry.

Rick McLaughlin, river group leader, pioneered step dam hazard mitigation approaches at Stanford University in the 1980s, techniques we still implement today to address dam safety issues. Rick has authored the only two known design manuals for river recreational structures.



McLaughlin-designed projects stand the test of time.

We’re known by clients and peers alike for durable, proven designs with natural aesthetics. Stable, reliable design leads to improved outcomes in safety, performance, environmental impact, and long-term cost.

We tailor each design to the specific performance and environmental needs determined by the site and project stakeholders. Our experience-based, innovative design approach delivers proven results.


High-Performance Whitewater

Our leadership in river recreation planning design is founded on more than 30 years of design experience.

We’ve built more than a dozen projects and have many more in process across the U.S., Canada and Europe. With our focus on bold, holistic river and recreation projects, we have revitalized countless communities and our venues have held such highly prized events as the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cups, and National Championships. Excellent designs have the power to transform communities and attract athletes and recreationalists from across the globe.


Check in with our team to kick off your whitewater project.

Our Team

We’re consumed by water. Our team has been engineering urban river restoration projects and providing strategic direction for whitewater enthusiasts and grassroots river advocates for decades. And we’re not just engineers, we’re avid whitewater paddlers and surfers. Rick McLaughlin and Ben Nielsen lead our team of more than a dozen professional engineers with diverse river and civil design experience. We’re also backed by Merrick, a large multidisciplinary engineering firm, which extends our capabilities to include the full spectrum of water resources and civil engineering services.

Rick McLaughlin, PE, Practice Lead

Rick is known for his unique ability to apply innovative, efficient, and holistic solutions to complex projects. He blends experience in traditional water resources and environmental engineering with a life-long interest in whitewater boating and river restoration. Rick has been the Engineer of Record for nearly all the constructed projects referenced throughout this website.

Ben Nielsen, PE, LEED AP,
River Design Lead

Ben specializes in open channel hydraulics, recreational whitewater, wave design, fish passage, bank stabilization, and hydraulic modeling. His passion for surfing, kayaking, fly fishing, and the river environment complement his technical expertise. Ben’s collaborative approach and ability to work with communities, owners, and stakeholders supports the planning and design of transformative river projects.


Unlock Your River

We use the power of our methodology and award-winning expertise to design and build sound solutions that shape the future of communities and their rivers.