If you’ve never tried white water rafting, you’re missing out on an amazing experience. Although some may think it’s a dangerous sport or it’s too strenuous, the fact is that white water rafting is a sport that everyone can enjoy whether you are young, old, in shape, or a couch potato. But before you pack up your gear there are a few things you should decide and plan for first.
When are you planning on taking your trip? Spring? Summer? Fall? Not all rivers have good rafting available all year round. While many of them with have ample water flowing, it may not be enough. Or it could be too much! And because of that there are rafting seasons that change according to which river you have in mind.
White water rafting is typically divided up in classifications ranging from one to six (I- VI), with one being the easiest. Class VI rivers are the most dangerous and can include waterfalls and other potentially fatal hazards. So if you’re looking for some difficult to advanced waterways, try the Class IV and V rivers. They have the fastest moving water and are usually at their highest levels right after the mountain snowpack begins melting, which is around late May to late June. Because this can be the roughest time to go rafting, be sure you have some experience and a guide with you.
If you’re looking for something a bit more moderate or even easy, you’ll want to stick to the Class I, II, and III rivers. Low water levels occur both before the snow melt in early spring and again in late summer when the runoff begins to diminish. Class I rivers with low levels can be easy for beginners and kids but you can still expect a few technical rapids. So beware.
More likely you’ll be looking for medium water levels found in Class II and III rivers. These levels occur during the peak tourist season from late June to August, so plan your trip well ahead of time. Holding off until late summer can offer the best time to view wildlife along the river.
You can still find rafting all the way up to November in some northern parts of the country. Places like Oregon, Wisconsin, and Washington are all active until then. So if you don’t mind the cold, rafting in the fall can be a beautiful time to go.
All reputable rafting companies will provide professional guides, modern safety equipment, and have standardized safety precautions in place. If there is anyone in your group who has a special limitation, check with the company you’ve chosen about what they can provide. Many companies can accommodate small children as young as four years old, but you may be restricted to either early or late season when the rivers are Class I. Whoever you decide to book with be sure to check on their safety record, how long they’ve been in business, and how old their equipment is. You don’t want your first rafting trip to be with a fly-by-night operation. Always book with a full-time, professional operator.
White water rafting is a great way to see our country and it’s an amazing experience you’ll never forget. We hope to see you out on the river soon!
This article was written by Ryan Thomas for Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting. Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting has guided thousands of whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek and throughout Colorado.