Top 10 Tips for Whitewater Rafting with Kids

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Admit that you’re taking your 10-month-old baby rafting and most people will look at you like that’s the craziest idea they’ve ever heard. And between the water and the wilderness, it can seem majorly daunting to pull off a DIY river trip with young children in tow. But with advance planning and basic expedition smarts, floating a remote stretch of river with your family is a hugely gratifying—and, yes, responsible—way to spend a few days this summer. 

Two years ago, when our older daughter, Pippa, was 10 months old, we rafted the San Juan River for five days from Mexican Hat to Clay Hills with another family and their two kids. This is a mellow, mostly Class II desert river through southeastern Utah’s remote canyon country, and despite some serious pre-trip jitters, the expedition went off without a hitch. Now that Pippa’s nearly three and her little sister, Maisy, is 10 months old, we’re going back to the San Juan later this month to run the same section. But even though we’ve done it before, with a baby the same age, I’m still having mini heart attacks almost daily, just thinking about taking two squirmy worms on muddy, moving water for nearly in a week in a canyon with no cell reception. Gulp.

So I was relieved to talk to Andy Corra, seasoned boater, fearless river dad, and owner of 4Corner Riversports in Durango, Colorado, who’s been rafting with his eight-year-old son Wiley since Wiley was four months old. Wiley made his whitewater debut on the mellow Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado and has since floated the San Juan and walked around some of the bigger drops in notoriously burly Cataract Canyon, so I figured if anyone could reassure me that I wasn’t completely out of my mind, it would be Andy. Sure enough, he was full of great, practical ideas about making multiday rafting adventures safe and fun for the whole family. (And no one’s called Child Protective Services on him yet!)

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