Way to Go

1999 Family Vacation Guide, Don't Spare the Bubbly

Way to Go
Trip Tips for First-Time Rafters

We talked with Steve Welch, general manager of ARTA River Trips and father of two boys:

What's the number-one rule for rafting with kids?
"Don't let your kids get cold, 'cause it's really miserable to warm them back up. I wouldn't even think about taking a river trip without two fleece jackets and a good rain shell for each kid."

What can kids expect on their first raft trip?
"To get wet. Rafting isn't as stable as water rides at Disneyland. The raft will flex, bend, hit rocks, go backwards and sideways."

What is the one thing kids are the most afraid of on raft trips?
"Kids don't want to go for an unplanned swim. That's where most of their anxiety comes from. I try to keep my kids in the raft at all costs."

What should kids do if they happen to fall into the water?
"Point their feet downstream, float on their backs, try to orient themselves to the river, and listen for their guide."

What happens if a raft flips?
"Flipping a raft is a rare occurrence and a pretty big deal. But if I were in a raft with my kid and it flipped, the first thing I'd do is find my kid. Then I'd put him on top of the overturned raft. The least desirable position is to be in the middle of the river by yourself."

Can you suggest any guiding principles on how parents should pick a raft trip?
"Parents need to put their kids' interests first. If a parent wants whitewater thrills and their kids aren't ready for it, that's a formula for disaster."
— S. G.

Copyright 1999, Outside magazine

More Travel