What is the typical whitewater rafting experience like?
Whitewater rafting experiences vary greatly depending on the river, the seasons, rainfall and the style of rafts. Rafting outfitters use sturdy inflatable vessels of various sizes and styles. The most common types of raft are the 16- to 18-foot oar raft, where the guide does all the paddling and steering, and the 12- to14-foot paddle rafts where everyone paddles together under the instruction of the guide.
There are six classes of whitewater, otherwise known as the International Scale of River Difficulty. These range from Class 1 water, which is mostly gentle and requires very little skill, to extremely dangerous Class 6 rapids. It’s not recommended to take on Class 4 waters without prior rafting experience. Rafting trips can range in duration from a couple of hours to multiday camping adventures.
Is it safe?
Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide raft safely every year, however, as with all adventure activities, there are risks involved. The odds of having an incident-free experience is greatly enhanced by signing on with an established outfitter with a solid reputation. And if you’re particularly worried, remember, the whitewater rafting injury rate in the USA is about the same as tenpin bowling. Sunburn is the most common injury on most rafting trips!
Who can go whitewater rafting?
Just about anyone with reasonable health and fitness can go whitewater rafting. The minimum age for a child on a Class 3 river is 8 years and 14 years on a Class 4 river. Many outfitters run special family trips on Class I and 2 rivers, which can accommodate children as young as 5 years old. Pregnant women, the extremely overweight and those with heart and back issues should not raft in anything over Class 1 waters.
What clothes should I wear?
Expect to get wet! The higher the class of rapid, the more wet you’ll get, so dress with the water temperature rather than the air temperature in mind. Avoid cotton which, once wet, stays wet and may give you chills. A pair of lightweight, quick-drying shorts will help protect your backside from chaffing. Wear an old pair of lace-up sneakers to protect your feet as sandals tend to be pulled off by fast-flowing currents if you “go swimming.” Pack sunscreen, however, avoid applying it to the backs of your legs as it can compromise your contact grip with the boat. Eyewear and hats should be attached by retainers. Be sure to leave all wallets, car keys and valuables at home or with the outfitters. Pack a towel and a set of dry clothes for the end of your trip.
What are my chances of falling in?
For many rafters, getting tossed from the boat and “going for a swim” is half the fun, particularly on hot days. During your pre-trip briefing, your guide will instruct you on the necessary safety drills should you or one of your fellow rafters fall in. For many rafters, an unscheduled dip is one of the highlights of their whitewater adventure!
Is it environmentally friendly?
Rafting raises awareness and appreciation for the natural environment. By experiencing firsthand the beauty of a river, folk who may otherwise be indifferent to environmental issues often gain a strong desire to protect and preserve that area because of their positive outdoor experience. Popular rafting grounds are less likely to flooded or dammed for hydro projects. Rafting grounds in North America are highly regulated, ensuring rivers are not “loved to death” by endless streams of rafters. Many rafting outfitters around the world contribute to local environmental and land care programs, as well as injecting much-needed tourism revenue into local economies.
How do I make it happen?
So, if you’re ready to make a splash, Expedia is onboard. We’ll help you book the cheapest flights, the comfiest rooms, the zippiest rental cars, and the most thrilling white water rafting tour guides, all packed up into one handy, consolidated itinerary.