Whitewater rafting trips allow you to experience remote wilderness environments, excitement and high adventure, and a rare level of self-sufficiency. On an overnight river trip you camp out in comfort, in a deluxe spare-no-frills style, because rafts can carry so much gear, fresh food, and your favorite beverages. By carefully selecting the river and flow level or season of the year, you can bite off as much or as little physical challenge and adrenalin-pumping thrill as you can handle.
In what other sport can you live and travel with a group of friends and/or family for days or even weeks at a time and together tackle the challenges thrown at you by the natural environment and the adventure of wilderness isolation? And each afternoon, when you beach the rafts at your campsite, you've arrived at your own little Margaritaville!
When you reach camp for the evening, the other dimensions of the sport of rafting kick in: hiking, fishing, or just kicking back. For many, white water rafting is an eating and drinking sport (at least to the degree that this is a good thing!). The best wines I drink all year are consumed in my polycarbonate wine glass while sitting in a beach chair beside a river, in the middle of nowhere. The scenery is supurb and I get to share the moment in the company of good friends. And then we cook up a feast, do a little fishing, or play games, and then relax around the campfire. When we wake up tomorrow, we get to do it all again. We'll spend the day running rapids, seeing the sights, and exploring the secrets of the river corridor. The sport of white water rafting has it all!
The amazing mix of excitement, comfortable camping, and natural beauty that is white water rafting is very addicting. If you've read this far, you've probably already fallen under its spell.
If you've never tried whitewater rafting, contact a few commercial river guide services. Pick a river that interests you and the level of adventure you're looking for and find a guide service that runs trips on that river. The general rule is that rafting trips in May and June, during high water season, offer more excitement and thrills. Trips in late June and July tend to be gentler, and the weather will probably be much better. Of course some rivers can be run during low water times in early spring and in the fall. Check around. In any case, the guide services are mostly all very good. They don't stay in business long if they don't provide a great time for their clients!
If you're thinking about 'do it yourself', here's the approach I used. Early in our marriage, my wife and I had camped beside the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho and watched the commercial rafting trips float by. There was just something special about those beautiful beaches and the sights and sounds of that emerald water flowing past and that thing found a place in our souls.
Later, we purchased a canoe and paddled the local lakes and slow-moving streams near our home while our kids were young. Our first actual rafting trip was with a commercial whitewater outfitter. Such trips are pretty much the typical beginning, the point where the spark is lit for most people who go on to own their own rafts. Shop around, the variety of whitewater guide services and the day trips and extended rafting vacations you can take with them is almost limitless. Being a paying passenger on a commercial white water rafting trip is enough for many people and gets them their rafting 'fix' each year. But if you're an independent type, you'll eventually want to do it yourself. When you decide to take the big step, get help.
I joined my local whitewater rafting club and then promptly purchased my first raft, a 14 foot cataraft. "Cats", as they're referred to, are a pair of pontoons joined by a metal frame. They're inherently more maneuverable and therefore more forgiving than a more traditional-style self-bailing raft. My fellow club members were very helpful in providing advice and accompanying me as I learned to control my boat, read the water, and learn safe practices, and river rescue techniques. As my skills and confidence grew, I started taking overnight river trips with friends. My old backpacking gear from college found a new life on lightweight weekend rafting trips with the guys. My wife and I then rented self-bailers for extended trips each summer until we eventually purchased our own 16 foot self-bailer. Wonderful river rafting vacations each summer are now a family tradition. We cherish the memories of the summer vacations we’ve spent on the rivers of the west with our 3, now grown, kids.