Take heed river rafters. Go not blindly onto that river with children and seniors in tow. Do your homework and make inquiries. Rafting pioneer Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) outlines important questions families should ask before embarking on a river rafting vacation.
“In our 50-plus years of operation, Western River Expeditions has created heirloom memories for literally thousands of families,” said Brian Merrill, CEO. “We’re always learning new things about how to engage parents and children both ashore and on the river. And we love it when families take the time to ask us questions before they make reservations for a rafting adventure.”
Merrill and his staff have heard it all from first time river runners, from “will there be flush toilets and room service?” to “I can’t swim, but can I still go?” To them no question is too silly or inappropriate. Following are a few of the more sensible ones they have heard, questions they suggest anyone considering a raft trip should ask:
First, “Is a raft trip right for me and the family?” If you’ve been eager to get the kids away from an over-civilized world and all its technology and overload, river rafting is a great place to start (hint – no Internet or cell service!).
- “How young can children be?” This question is river-dependent. If the river is relatively tranquil in post-spring runoff, with most rapids being Class III or lower, children as young as five can often be accommodated with Coast Guard-approved age-appropriate life jackets.
- “How old can Grandma and Grandpa be?” This is truly more a question of physical ability over age. Western River Expeditions has taken 85-year-olds down the river who can get on and off the boat and hike better than a 60-year-old. Discuss your physical level with your outfitter to help you make the best choice. Note that Western River Expeditions does offer an interesting option for the older crowd. On Grand Canyon trips, Western uses a patented boat called the “J-Rig.” This 37-foot motorized craft offers quite a bit more flexibility in seating and comfort than traditional rafts and can be a great way for Grandma and Grandpa to join a trip.
- “Is it mandatory to know how to swim?” Non-swimmers are welcomed on most all river trips. Coast Guard-approved life vests (PFDs – personal floatation devices) are mandatory as well as a safety talk prior to departure. Non-swimmers, however, should have a heart-to-heart chat with their potential tour company before making a reservation for a rafting trip with larger whitewater.
- Bottom line: “Is rafting dangerous?” The element of risk (and thrill) that comes with running the rapids is why river rafting is so popular. But there’s perceived risk and then there’s real risk. That’s where professional river guides come in. They are extensively trained to minimize and manage risks. But there’s not much even your guides can do about your sunburn if you forget to put on sunscreen, or if you’re a klutz getting in and out of the boat!
Once you’ve put the above questions to bed, then ponder:
- “How many hours will your gang want to spend on the river each day?” Some itineraries involve less time on water, more time at camp and exploring trails. But please come with a flexible attitude. The speed of the flow, location of campsites and how long lunch and day hikes take influence the amount of time floating, swimming and paddling on the water each day.
- “What if I’m nervous about whitewater?” Think options. There are rafting trips on calm water and trips with world-class whitewater. The type of boat you’re in also dictates the adventure. You can choose to paddle your own craft (most adventurous), ride in boat with a guide at the oars or with Western, ride atop a patented “J-Rig,” a large, motorized boat with seating up front for the more gung-ho or aft for more protection.
- “In camp, how much ‘roughing it’ is there?” Guests sleep each night in a wilderness setting on the river, in a tent or out in the open under the stars (your choice). Your biggest responsibility will be pitching your tent. The guides take care of setting up the loo, food prep and clean up. Camping is usually deluxe, comfortable and easy. Meals are often better than what you have at home.
- “What do little ones do at camp?” Think nature-oriented games and special hours for dining for youngsters, supervised by staff trained to work with children. There is truly never enough time for all that both kids and teens want to experience on the river.
When you are ready to make a reservation, let the company know the ages and experience levels of participants. The company will guide you. For first timers and young families with ages five to 12, Western River Expeditions recommends a five-day trip on Utah’s Green River or Idaho’s Lower Salmon. For families with children ages nine and up, a three-day trip through the Grand Canyon may be the right fit. Those with children 12 and up have the widest range of options to choose from including Utah’s Cataract Canyon and a full six day trip in the Grand Canyon. Chances are other families will be on these trips and the children have fun interacting and making new friends.
For a copy of the 2015 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160866.904.1160 FREE (Local: 801.942.6669801.942.6669), or visit: http://www.westernriver.com/.