Essential River Rafting Tips

River Rafting

It’s Time to Go River Rafting and Add Some Real Excitement to Your Summer.

If you have ever thought you might enjoy the adrenaline rush of whitewater rafting but are nervous about getting started you will be thrilled, literally, to know that there are a range of guided options where you can learn to paddle and navigate some of America’s most beautiful, and exciting rapids.  Read on for some essential river rafting tips.

River Rafting

Water is unpredictable and can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, which is why so many are nervous about whitewater rafting. Although being aware of the dangers that any river can present is wise, don’t let fear stop you from experiencing the thrill that comes from being able to successfully navigate a series of rapids.

Safety First

Although rafting down a river is going to be both tranquil and exhilarating, it does not need to be dangerous. Yes, accidents can always happen, but with some basic safety precautions you can minimize your risks and enjoy the ride.

Although rivers are generally not deep, if you somehow end up in the water it is not recommended to walk in them as it is surprisingly easy to get a foot trapped. There are basic things that you should be doing to keep yourself safe if you do find yourself in the water, and your guide will talk you through the various procedures before you get on the water. You should make sure you are very clear on what the safety procedures are, and if you aren’t, now is the time to ask questions.


If you have never been on a river, particularly one with rapids, then going with an experienced guide is a must. Even world champion’s (see here) in the sport don’t raft alone. If you get into trouble you want to ensure that you have backup immediately at hand.

When you go with a guide, if this is your first time, choose an established company and someone who is going to actually teach you as they go down the river. Although just sitting in a raft might be fun, to get the full exhilaration you need to be actively involved in trying to get yourself through the rapids – and a good guide will encourage you do really enjoy your ride.


This is a big part of being safe on the water. If you are going with a reputable company, they will ensure that their rafts or kayaks are of a high standard and equipped with a basic medical kit. However, one of the most important pieces of equipment you should never be without is a lifejacket, that is properly and securely fitted. Most river rafting operators will also insist on anyone who is in their boats are wearing a helmet.

Swimming Ability

Although it may surprise you, strong swimming skills are generally not a requirement for going rafting. Most of the rivers that you will be on are not overly deep, so although the current may be strong you will be quickly moved by the water onto the bank of the river where you can climb out. In actual fact, many national parks will not allow rafting during spring melts or heavy winter rains because the rivers become too unstable, and too high.

Calm Water River Rafting

Grading Rapids

Rivers are given a ‘class’ rating based on how difficult they are to navigate. Ranging from a Class 1 which requires a level of navigation so basic that you probably won’t even need to paddle through to a Class 6 which are generally considered to be a death wish, they are that dangerous.

For example, the Delaware River is a Class 1 – 2, meaning that in some spots you might find a bit of rough water but no drops, and is ideal for a true beginner or a school trip.

Whereas the Niagara River is a Class 6, with the most obvious (but not only) hazard being Niagara Falls.

Most companies that are catering for rafting beginners will generally stay to rivers that are around a grade 2 – 3. So, you will certainly encounter some white water, probably a few small drops, and you will need to paddle to maneuver your raft or kayak. Rivers like the Salmon River are favorites because they have rapids in a range of grades, so can happily cater for any experience level – and if the group is of a mixed ability beginners may be able to enjoy a short trek over land to avoid a class of rapids well beyond their comfort zone.

So do a bit of research about rivers in your area that offer rafting trips, select one that meets your abilities, and go for some cool exhilaration on your next getaway.


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