Whitewater Rafting Guide to River Trips
If you’re the type of person who enjoys an outdoor adventure, river rafting trips are right up your alley. Until you’ve tried it, you can never understand the exhilaration of shooting the rapids one minute, while taking in some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery the next. Many rafting companies can provide all the equipment you need, plus the benefit of a skilled guide to navigate your family or group through an incredible river rafting experience. From white water to smooth sailing, river rafting trips have to be experienced to be believed.
What Is Whitewater Rafting
In the last 30 years, whitewater rafting has gained massive popularity. People tend to go in groups for family gatherings, friends reuniting, and even corporate team-building exercises. Whitewater rafting is massively fun and an undisputed adrenaline rush.
At its core, whitewater rafting is simply the act of taking a raft down through turbulent areas of a river. These turbulent areas are known as rapids. Rapids are formed by three factors – constriction, gradient, and obstruction. Water naturally flows downhill because of gravity. When it is constricted, it pushes in from the sides, speeding up and getting turbulent.
Speed also increases when the gradient gets steeper and, of course, obstructions cause water to crash into them and swirl around as the flow tries to find the best way to follow gravity. Each of these events causes rapids and the resulting turbulence churns the water thus causing “white water.” The goal of whitewater rafting is to surf these rapids without being flipped or dragged under.
Classes of Whitewater Rapids
Whitewater rapids are classified into six categories. Category 1 is a smooth river with no rapids. The categories climb from their too Category 6, which is either impassible or should only be attempted by experts. Most whitewater rafting trips occur on Category 3 and 4 rapids, where the turbulence gives you an exciting ride, but with limited risk.
- Class I – River rafting trips for beginners and pleasure cruisers. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery without the tumultuous rapids.
- Class II – If you’re ready for white water, consider indulging in Class II river rafting trips. It’s still considered a basic level, but at least you’ll experience some thrilling rapids. Class II rafting trips include wide channels of rapids that limit the skill required to safely maneuver through them.
- Class III – Class III river rafting trips consist of intermediate level difficulties in fighting strong currents and manipulating your raft through more perilous channels of rapids.
- Class IV – Once you’ve become comfortable with the basics and know how to handle your raft, a Class IV river rafting trip will provide some exciting rapids that require some skill to master.
- Class V – Class V rafting is considered an expert only level course. If you’re an avid rafter who enjoys a challenge, Class V river rafting trips offer long stretches of treacherous rapids and tons of excitement.
- Class VI – Strictly for hard-core, experienced rafters. Class VI river rafting includes navigating extremely dangerous rapids passages and requires great skill on the part of all participants.
Whitewater rafts are typically big and sturdy. They hold between six and 12 people spread equally on each side. Although an expert guide controls the steering at the back, most rafting companies allow the passengers to paddle on each side of the raft in their corresponding spots.
Whitewater rafting has a certain risk factor and safety is paramount. All rafters absolutely should wear helmets and life jackets. Falling out of the raft can be a common occurrence depending on the river conditions. All rafters should be able to swim.
There are thousands of rivers that are perfect for whitewater rafting trips. Most people choose a rafting company for their trip since the company is already familiar with the river conditions and has the necessary equipment.
Great Rivers to Explore with River Rafting Trips
While there are hundreds of fantastic rivers suitable for river rafting trips, some of the most popular destinations include:
Rogue River, Oregon
Located amidst the Cascade Mountain Range, the beautifully scenic Rogue River makes a great location for family river rafting trips. Consisting of Class II and Class III rapid passages, this enchanting river provides excitement in a safe environment.
Colorado River/Grand Canyon
The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon offers a diverse set of opportunities for river rafting trips. From the intense class IV and V rapids of the Upper Grand Canyon, to the more mellow rafting, as the river flows into Lake Mead, river rafting is a great way to explore the majesty of the Grand Canyon.
Whitewater Rafting Terminology
Whitewater rafting is a major adrenaline rush. If you are going to hit the rapids, you need to know some whitewater rafting terminology. As with any sport, it helps to have a basic understanding of the tools of the trade, techniques and such. Not only does this help you sound like you know what you are doing, but it actually gives you some insight into the process. Let’s take a look at some whitewater rafting terminology.
A dry bag is a waterproof bag you can keep things in on the raft such as wallets, keys and such. Water is going to get all over the boat, so consider yourself warned. Most whitewater rafting companies provide them with trips.
This abbreviation refers to cubic feet per second, a measure of the speed and ferocity of the current. The more cubic feet of water moving per second, the more aggressive the rapids and, in my humble opinion, the more fun!
An eddie is an area where the current stops or heads back up stream. This typically occurs on the down current side of boulders. It can be a good place to collect yourself for the next rapids.
This term refers to the general verticality of the river. The higher the gradient, the “steeper” the river is. This higher gradient means faster water and typically a more exhilarating ride.
Also referred to as a hole or various cuss words, a hydraulic is an area where water is super turbulent and can suck your raft under if sufficient in size. It is typically found at the bottom of a fall or behind a large obstacle where the gradient is high and the CFS is large.
This is why you live to a whitewater raft. Rapids are turbulent areas of the water which gives the sport its name. You pop in, out, over and every which way through them.
A flotation device. Wear them always. Don’t try to be cool. If you get thrown from the raft, which can happen, these will save you. This is particularly true if you smack your head on something.
Whitewater rafting terminology is surprisingly broad. This short list of terms should give you a head start on enjoying your trip.