Whitewater Rafting FAQs
When is the best time to go white water rafting?
It depends on where the rafting company is located, water levels, and weather. Generally in North America excellent rafting is available from April to October. Higher and lower water levels can increase the thrill factor on most rivers, so spring and late summer/fall are optimum for maximum adventure. Summer months of June, July and August are the most popular times to raft. (When you take into consideration the temperature of some of the rivers - many are glacier fed - you want it to be hot!)
How are rivers classified for difficulty?
The difficulty of a river is classified on a scale of Class I to Class VI with I being very easy and VI unrunnable. Rivers are generally classified based on normal moderate water flows but during times of hightened or lowered water levels, the grade can be increased. Most commercial rafting trips take place on a grade III or IV river.
Class I: Waves small, passages clear; no serious obstacles. (A.k.a. the inner tube float. Barely moving water with hardly any rapids!)
Class II: Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear. (Great rafting for families with very small children or for people looking for an introduction to kayaking.)
Class III: Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering. (This is the most popular classification for whitewater, and is the recommended level for beginning rafters)
Class IV: Long rapids; waves powerful, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required. (Rivers such as these should be run by athletic, experienced rafters who are looking for more action.)
Class V: Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent currents; very steep gradient. (Paddlers must have prior Class IV or better whitewater rafting experience. You should also be athletic with the mental attitude for high risk activities...
Class VI: Commercially unrunnable. (A.k.a. the guide's run! No commercial outfitter will take a commercial client on this type of rapid.)
What type of white water raft do i ride in?
There are three types of commonly used rafts, each with it's own pros and cons.
The Self-Bailing Paddle Rafts can hold between 4-10 passengers. Each passenger is given a paddle and must work as a team under the direction of the guide to help power and maneuver the raft, generating a greater feeling of accomplishment. The ride is generally smoother than with the motorized raft.
The Oar Raft is solely maneuvered by the guide using two long oars.
The Motor Raft is propelled by a motor, not you, so you are free to hang on for dear life as you are tossed through the rapids. Ability to swim is not always an asset in these types of rafts.
Who can go white water rafting?
Generally, just about anyone in reasonable health and fitness can go rafting. The minimum age for a child on a Class III river (under normal water flows) is 8 years old (and a minimum weight of 55 pounds) and 14 years old on a Class IV river. There is no maximum age although anyone over 60 should be in good health and perhaps consult with your physician if you have any concerns. If you are pregnant, extremely overweight, or have back or heart problems, we do not suggest a raft trip. It is also recommended that you not have a fear of the water.
What do I provide?
It depends on the raft company. Some trips include camping, and you may be required to bring some equipment (such as a sleeping bag). Many companies provide absolutely everything, (wetsuit, fleece, neoprene booties, etc.) including a meal, so all you need is your swimsuit, towel, and a change of clothes. It's also suggested to bring a waterproof camera, sunscreen and sunglasses (just make sure to get one of those things that hold them on your head!)
Is it safe?
Rafting is thrilling, exciting, wet, wild and unbelievably fun. However, as in all adventure sports, there is an inherent risk involved. That risk contributes to the excitement, and is one of the reasons people enjoy it so much. Our guides are trained to minimize risks, and, statistically, you're safer on a raft than in your car. One state government found in an investigation that the injury rate for whitewater rafting is similar to that for bowling! But still, there is a risk, and you must accept that risk when you go on the river. The most common injury is sunburn, and most other injuries occur on land, especially getting into and out of the boats.
What are my chances of falling out, and what do I do if that happens?
Believe it or not, many people love falling out of the boat. It's exciting. But it can be disorienting and a little overwhelming at first. Many people have taken multiple trips and never fallen in. Some people swim on their first trip. It's a part of rafting. On rivers where the rapids are far enough apart, some companies suggest a voluntary dunk.
Before you go on any trip, you'll be given extensive instructions on what to do if you fall in, and how to stay safe. Follow you're guide's instructions, and your "swim" could be the most exciting part of your trip!
Can I bring my camera / video camera?
A general rule of thumb is don't bring anything you would be devastated to lose. Video cameras and still cameras will get wet and most likely ruined. A good idea is a disposable waterproof camera. Photo quality is pretty good, and if you lose it, it's not the end of the world. They are well suited to rafting. Some companies have professional photographers, whose photos you can view and order after the trip.
Keep in mind
Alcohol or drugs before a trip endanger the lives of you and other passengers. Save it for after!