River rafting is an exciting way to enjoy the Great Outdoors: get a great view of the scenery from the river, plus the thrill of stretches of white water. Pick the right Class of river rafting, and even young kids can enjoy the ride. Some companies take kids as young as four.
And if you want to opt entirely out of the "white water" part -- many white water rafting companies also offer a calm river float downstream. Sometimes it's possible to take a dip as you float along.
Can I Do White Water River Rafting? Can My Kids?
Novice families can definitely do river rafting outings, ranging from half-day trips to overnight adventures.
Typically, on a white water river rafting trip, guests team up in large inflatable multi-person rafts, with at least one guide per raft. Every crew member is expected to paddle-- following the guide's instructions-- and that's a big part of the fun. The river rafting trip starts off with a short training talk, and it's expected that all participants are novices. so no worries if you've never done a white water trip before. Kids are frequent participants; river rafting companies have policies about what ages suit specific trips.
Class I is the easiest type of white water rafting (as in "Skill Level- None"), and difficulty increases up to Class VI. Class III has small waves, maybe a small drop; Class IV has medium waves, maybe rocks, maybe a drop -- lots of fun.
Most family trips will be Class I or II; kids over 8 may be allowed on class III rivers, which have more white water excitement.
Ways To Do a River Rafting Trip
The simplest-- and most affordable -- way to sample white water rafting is to vacation in an area where the river rafting is known to be good, and simply include a day or half-day rafting trip as part of your getaway. Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and West Virginia are good bets.
Remember, rivers change with the time of year! Rivers that are fed by mountain snow thaws may be thrilling early in the season, but not offer much of a ride by late summer. Also, conditions vary year to year depending on the winter's snowfall.
You can also try rafting on some tropical islands. For example, in the Dominican Republic, visitors can sample white water rafting as a day trip: Lots of fun, and a great way to see more of the island than its beaches. Fall and winter are best, after the island's rainy season.
Notching up a step: if you want an overnight experience, many river rafting outfitters offer overnight packages. Rafting the Grand Canyon, for example, is a multi-day trip.
Keep in Mind About River Rafting
- be prepared for the elements: you'll be totally exposed to sun, and also you'll get soaked.
- be prepared for a dip: often a river rafting trip will include an opportunity to jump into the water to cool down, or even to enjoy a float downstream. (Every rafter should know how to swim: people do fall off the raft from time to time.)
- sunglasses and hats might get lost.
- Space on a raft is limited; don't expect to bring along a bag of stuff. Ask if there's a "dry bag" on the trip.