When it comes to whitewater rafting, you've got leisurely floater trips
for the whole family. Then, you've got the extreme, white-knuckle, hang-on-for-your-life
adventures. From mild to wild, it's your choice.
Rapids are rated on a scale of one to six. A rapid rated as a "one" is
an easy rapid. A "six" is a rapid that few human rafters have ever mastered.
This scale is used around the world to classify rapids. This way, rafters
know what they're getting into!
It's not quite The River Wild, but note that this can be a dangerous sport.
Rafters should follow safety guidelines at all times.
Rafter Stan Bishop says one of the most dangerous habits is not listening
to your team or your guide. Scream if you must, but pay attention to the person
reading the rapids. If a guide yells or signals, "Lean forward!" you'll definitely
want to know about it.
"You get a lot of high school kids together and they don't listen," says
Bishop. "They want to cut up and joke and it can be dangerous."
|Courtesy of: Adrift Adventures|
Spring means the beginning of rafting season. All over North America, rafters
travel to their favorite rivers. They are drawn to the sport by the thrill
of it all.
Robin Tierney owns Adrift Adventures and has been rafting since the '70s.
She describes the feeling of her clients at the end of a weekend trip: "They're
just invigorated! Their batteries have been charged and they've done something
completely different from work."
Many rafters think of the sport as one person against the river. While
this is an acceptable fantasy, you'll need to gather your team spirit and
help out when the time comes.
Tierney says, "You need to be able to work well with other people in a
teamwork situation, especially when it comes to the possibility of performing
river rescue. You have to be able to rely on everybody else."
There are rafting areas on all corners of the continent, but most rafters
have favorite local adventures.
Don't judge a river by its size. Rafters say smaller rivers can actually
offer more challenge. The difference is how technically challenging the water
Can a raft basically find its own way down a river? Or does it take an
experienced group of paddlers and a guide to maneuver the vessel around rocks,
down fast drops and through hard-to-spot routes?
While there are no formal competitions in whitewater rafting, several top
adventure races have begun to include difficult whitewater rafting runs. As
well, many serious rafters are also canoeists and kayakers. Both sports have
What about equipment and costs? Rafts range in price from $2,000 to $3,500
for a 12-foot raft. Then you have to outfit it with a frame and other gear,
like lines. You'll also need a life jacket and paddles. If you plan on overnight
rafting trips, you'll also need camping gear and cooking equipment.
There's lots of planning to do before every trip. A route must be chosen,
usually with four or more people on each raft. Then rafts must be brought
to the river. On longer trips, arrangements to get back to the starting point
must be made. And then there's packing food and clothing in airtight containers
just in case the raft flips.
Rafters like to talk about the rapids they've run. The higher the number,
the better the story!
Experienced rafters often follow their love of the sport by becoming rafting
guides, leading trips down rivers that they know by heart. Becoming a guide,
however, means more than just a lot of rafting experience.
If you're interested in this sport, take a few rafting trips with a commercial
rafting company first. Do not get a raft and put it in a river just to try
it out! You need to know what you're doing first.
Here are some essential skills and equipment for rafting:
- Become a competent swimmer and stay in shape. You also need to be able
to handle yourself underwater.
- Wear a life jacket. It should fit snugly. It will protect you and help
you swim in whitewater.
- Wear a helmet. This is especially important for rafters running steep
- Consider getting some first aid and CPR certification before you even
begin. Many courses require it but you'll want it simply for your own safety
-- not to mention your mom's peace of mind!
- Do not tackle rivers that are beyond your skills. This is called "boating
out of control." You should not run a rapid unless you are sure you can do
so safely or be able to swim it if you fall out of the raft.
Note that, while an ability to swim is essential for aspiring guides, almost
anyone can experience rafting.
According to Bishop, physical abilities aren't a prerequisite for passengers.
He says, "We actually take some handicapped people down the river. We've got
one guy who's taken quadriplegics down the river. I've taken people down that
were in their 70s. Everybody paddles but everybody paddles just as much as
they can. The main thing is we just try to get them to work together."
Take a river safety course. Experienced guides and rafters say it's absolutely
essential for your own safety and ability to have fun. It will ensure you
know how to handle yourself, the raft, and the rapids.
A good whitewater school will also teach its students how to respect the
outdoors and treat the river with care, says Tierney.
Consider taking a guiding course. This will teach you how to handle groups
of people on and off the raft.
Get involved with a whitewater club near you. It's a good way to learn
North West Rafters Association
Safety Code of American Whitewater
Learn more about keeping yourself safe so you can enjoy your
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Whitewater Rafting Planning Guide
Tips and other information for a perfect rafting adventure