Water Rafting | Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

water rafting

Water rafting is one of the most thrilling outdoor activities out there to the average Joe outdoorsmen or weekend warrior. It is the type of adventure that’s good to share with friends and lends itself well to a memorable weekend trip. In the end, water rafting always leaves participants wanting more and with enough stories to fill the long ride home. We are going to go over five things you should expect on a water rafting excursion so that you come prepared to make the most out of your adventure.

Water Rafting: 5 Things To Expect & Plan For 

Most folks have their own impressions or ideas concerning what a water rafting excursion will entail. Below, we list some questions and points regarding rafting you might not have thought about in preparation for your first (or next) water rafting excursion.

  1. Expect to Get Wet on Your Water Rafting Excursion

I know getting wet on a water rafting excursion sounds like a no-brainer and ought to go without saying. However, there are still some folks out there who believe they’re simply taking a ride “on” the river instead of fighting for their lives on the river. As overdramatic as it sounds, you can expect to get wet. That means you ought to dress for the occasion and just bring things that can get wet.

Getting wet when water rafting is an inviting reprieve from the warmth of a scorching summer day. Also, it adds to the excitement and thrill of the entire experience even in cold water and weather. Moreover, the raft guides usually will allow you to dive in and swim during some point of the excursion, so you will want to be prepared for that. Of course, there’s always the opportunity of getting tossed out of your raft as you travel down the river, and as such it’s critical that you know how to swim. Therefore, the bottom line is to expect to get wet. Keep in mind, if you do not get wet when whitewater rafting you are likely doing something wrong.

  1. Count on Being Cold on your Water Rafting Trip

You’ll be cold when rafting. Although this may not be readily apparent unless you’re going in early spring when you would expect both the water and the air to be cold. The fact is that it may be cold even during the summertime. Often, the water may come from deep underneath a reservoir or it even may be from some late season snow melt. Add the frigid mountain water temperature, along with the air that oftentimes whips through the canyon or down the mountain’s slopes into the river beds, and you might imagine that it does grow cold on those excursions.

Wetsuits are suggested to battle the cold within the spring season. You usually can rent them from a rafting company, yet you might want to arrange for it beforehand if you do. If you’re prepared to go rafting in cold conditions more than one time in your life, it’d pay to invest in your own wetsuit. It’ll save you money on rental fees and spare you from wearing the rental wetsuits.  Windbreakers, polypropylene long underwear, and wool socks also are great to overcome the cold. It might be that a swimsuit is okay in the summertime, yet it is better to ask your rafting company what kind of attire is better to dress in for the particular time of year and river you’ll be rafting. Speaking of attire, you always should dress in protective footwear with closed toe shoes that fit securely on your feet.

  1. Count on Having a Lengthy Bus Ride on Your Water Rafting Excursion

The majority of folks underestimate the usually lengthy bus rides which accompany a water rafting excursion. Typically, these rivers are located in heavily wooded regions and may have restricted road access. That means arriving to and from the river might take quite some time. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way around it and your shuttle to arrive to and from the river is merely a part of the entire process.

It’s possible to make things easier by taking some precautions ahead of time which in the long-term is going to make this aspect of the excursion at least bearable. Firstly, visit the bathroom before you get on the bus. Secondly, bring along a snack for the drive and prepare to store a drink and snack for the ride back. Thirdly, see if it’s possible to have a towel and dry clothing on the bus which will be picking you up. There isn’t anything worse than being wet, cold, hungry, and needing to visit the bathroom as you’re stuck on a bus navigating the steep and windy roads after a water rafting excursion.

It’d be an excellent idea to ask the question of the raft company as they could inform you precisely how long of a drive it’ll be.

  1. Count on Not Having the Ability to Bring Anything on Your Raft

Generally, rafts have extremely restricted space for anything other than passengers. Usually, rafts will hold a first aid kit and a cooler for lunch, if you are going on a 1/2 or full day excursion. That is likely all the raft can carry. What room there is on the raft’s floor will not hold much for long since you’ll be surfing the holes and going through waves, all with the probability of the raft flipping over.

Also keep in mind that anything you carry on the raft is going to get wet and easily become damaged. So, do not expect to bring anything on the raft along with you. There can, of course, be some ways around it by carrying smaller items inside your lifejacket, windbreaker or paddling jacket, and any tight-fitting pack it’s possible to wear around your waist.

Here is a water rafting checklist to help you out:White Water Rafting Pigeon Forge

  • Driver’s license (if you rent wetsuits and other equipment)
  • Drink and snack (for drive back)
  • Change of Clothing (for drive back)
  • Plastic Bag (for damp things like sneakers)
  • Towel(s)
  • Zip Lock Bags (to keep small items dry]
  • Small Dry Bag (if they allow you to take it on the raft)
  • Gatorade or water (outfitter might offer this)
  • Energy Bar for river (outfitter might offer this)
  • Waterproof Camera
  • River shoes, neoprene booties, or old sneakers
  • Eye Glass Straps (if necessary)
  • Sunglasses (optional)
  • Lip balm and sun block
  • Tee-shirt (if it’s warm outside)
  • Swimsuit (if it’s warm outside)

In addition to the list above, here is a cold weather water rafting list:

Warm clothes like:

  • Polypropylene Long underwear
  • Wool socks
  • Wool sweater

Outwear like:

  • Drysuit
  • Wetsuit
  • Paddling pants
  • Paddling jacket (no hood)

For Extremities

  • Neoprene Booties
  • Neoprene Gloves
  1. Count on Receiving Water Rafting Training on Your Excursion

It’s very common to wonder if you’ll receive training on the rafting excursion. The short answer is yes you are going to receive training. It’s in the outfitters best interest for you to enjoy your experience with them. Also, it’s in their best interest that all aspects from unloading the raft to navigating the river is as safe as possible. Both mean you have to be trained and it’s up to them to do it.

Usually, the training will comprise of a video at the start of the day. At the river, they’ll go over how to carry your raft on land and any signals the raft guide is going to use when on the water. Once out on the water, you’ll practice basic strokes with your paddle as you follow the rafting guides’ commands. All of this varies, of course, from one outfitter to another, yet it’ll be covered in some way or another.

Above everything else, count on having a great time on your water rafting excursion!

 

Top 10 Water Rafting Locations & Outfitters in the US

With that being said let’s go over the top water rafting outfitters:

water rafting
Photo Credit:@OregonRiverExperiences via Facebook

1.)Oregon River Experiences

Oregon River Experiences run some of the most amazing wild rivers in America. Some offer easily accessible, fun outings near Portland and additional towns, whereas other ones provide pristine, remote wilderness adventures.

2.) Discover Outdoors

water rafting
Photo Credit:@DiscoverOutdoors via Facebook

Discover Outdoors is the premier guide business for backpacking, camping, and hiking in America. Established in the year 2004, their guides lead a multitude of explorers every year around the country and across the world. Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or first-time hiker, they aim to offer experiences for every level which are fun, responsible, and safe.

The company manages all of the details in order for you to embrace adventure.

Irrespective of where you come from, each experience with this outfitter funds a life-changing adventure to deserving teens in New York City through Discover Outdoors Foundation, their non-profit.

 Their mission
They assist people in living courageously. From the Hudson Valley trails to the American West wilderness and the Kilimanjaro summit, these outfitters have guided all across the world. As a matter of fact, pretty much the only place they will not take visitors is their comfort zone. Their challenges, physical or otherwise, are made to expand what guests think is possible. The adventures they embark on reward teamwork and real connections with each other. The environments they explore hold treasures for the ones who invest the time to protect and appreciate them.

Their team

Guides at Discover Outdoors are leaders within their communities. They have the highest certifications, as well as set industry standards for guides. Boundlessly able and caring, their unrivalled crew is motivated mainly by what they see in you.

3.) Arizona River Runners

These outfitters followed within the footsteps of pioneer river runners who, in the 1930s, travelled down the Colorado River with nothing more than their heavy wooden boats, adventurous disposition, and an enthusiasm to share their adventures with folks from every walk of life. These humble beginnings witnessed the birth of the modern-day adventure vacation, which makes water rafting through the Grand Canyon highly accessible to all people who have a willing spirit and the desire.

water rafting
Photo Credit:@ArizonaRiverRunners via Facebook

It All Began in 1970

In 1970, Arizona River Runners started to offer Grand Canyon rafting to visitors searching for adventurous Colorado River excursions. Fred Burke, founder, set out on a simplistic mission: to offer the willing with the chance to venture the Grand Canyon. Two early expedition guides, Bruce Winter and Bill Gloeckler, both saw the wild adventures of the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon as a way to earn a living and become a part of an expanding industry. The intrepid outdoorsmen soon discovered the need to own Arizona River Runners. Therefore, they approached Fred in 1985 and purchased the business from him.

Bruce and Bill

Bill and Bruce have shown that dedication and hard work are the benchmarks of success. They’ve passed along this standard of excellence to their expert team and that’s why the company earned a reputation as one of the most reputable outfitters on the Colorado River. These outfitters believe that the satisfaction and safety of their passengers is critical to the success of any excursion. Over time, Arizona River Runners has created a number of Grand Canyon packages which appeal to groups, individuals and families. Their aim includes providing outstanding rafting expeditions through the Grand Canyon, as well as make your trip a memorable and safe experience which will remain with you forever.

What We Do

The outfitters provide multi-day Grand Canyon excursions and their river guides permit their guests to gain new perspective upon the real spirit of the Grand Canyon and connect with additional like-minded folks who enjoy the wilderness. The excursions vary from three to thirteen days. Their guides are cooks, boatmen, entertainers, hiking guides, teachers, as well as protectors of the environment where they work.

4.) Northeast Whitewater

water rafting
Photo Credit:northeastwhitewater.com

This company is a locally owned, small water rafting adventure business, situated in the pristine and beautiful Moosehead Lake area of Maine. Wife and husband team, Jessica and Jeremy Hargreaves, worked for one of the biggest water rafting businesses in Maine until they left to begin their own company. Their goal is to offer personalized, quality expeditions in the outdoors of Maine, while bringing value to the product through relationship building and exceptional service. The outfitter strives to exceed all expectations.

Their first year in business was in the year 2007. They rented a little outpost at Historic Pittston Farm within the North Maine Woods, at the confluence of the South and North Branches of the Penobscot River, as well as Seboomook Lake’s west end. Here, they provided water rafting excursions on Canada Falls and Seboomook, part of the Penobscot river. Their outdoor clinics offered instructions on various parts of whitewater around Maine, as well as Registered Maine Guide classes. They liked that first summer season at Pittston Farm, yet with gasoline prices at more than $5 per gallon at Historic Pittston Farm, the rough road for visitors to arrive to their remote basecamp was challenging. To keep their momentum going, the only choice included moving to a region with paved roads and a population higher than eight.

Enter Moosehead Lake. Most think of The Forks as they imagine water rafting in Maine, however, one of the original Maine rafting businesses originated in Greenville, ME; Eastern Rivers. It is more likely than you may think, as you consider Greenville’s placement at the southern top of Moosehead Lake. Kennebec river’s headwaters is Moosehead Lake and they’re less than fifty miles to the W. Branch of the Penobscot River. They had the ability to acquire a rental contract for a part of the old W.L. Bartley building that previously had been the area One Stop.

Their small base inside the old garage, was a great next step for their business. Every morning before their visitors arrived, they’d pull the garage door up, sweep the concrete floor out and invite visitors for the day’s adventures. Rafting and music videos played in the background, visitors would gain their day-to-day necessary equipment from their raft guides at the “shed” beside the base, load on the bus then head out for a fun day of rafting!

After two years at the W.L. Bartley within Center Cove on Moosehead, they’d outgrown the garage. Ideally, they thought it’d have been great to move to the front “store room” of the old gasoline station, however that opportunity wasn’t available to them, so they began to consider other options in the area.

Enter McDonald’s. McDonald’s absolutely had nothing to do with their relocation, yet the old McDonalds corporate building had everything to do with it! The timing was just right in the fall of the year 2010 when they were asking around town regarding properties which might be appropriate for their moose tour and rafting company. Ironically, the lease on the old McDonald’s, situated at the tip of Indian Hill, would be opening on January 1st of 2011, although the structure hadn’t been occupied by McDonald’s since the year 1998. With renovations to the area to make it less of an open kitchen eatery and more of a lodge feeling, they put up colorful pictures, pine walls, moose and raft memorabilia, videos and music on the big screen televisions. Plus, a visitor check-in space was prepared.

Behind the scenes, they constructed office space, custom-made their commercial kitchen for their raft excursion meals, and added on an equipment room. Since their initial year “on the hill,” they have added visitor changing rooms, a raft equipment barn and a storage shed. The revolution of changing the minds of the locals about McDonald’s not being McDonald’s anymore was challenging the whole time they ran Northeast Whitewater, yet they liked to say, it isn’t McDonald’s anymore – it is Northeast Whitewater!

In a day and age where people want simplicity with vacation preparations and like the idea of vacation packages, they did not have the ability to be competitive with the larger rafting businesses. After all, they weren’t able to lodge their own visitors. Enter Indian Hill Motel.

Within the 1960’s, Callie and Bill Muzzy began Indian Hill Motel, the original Moosehead Lake region motel. It stayed in the family until leased within the 1990’s and 2000’s by the Chalet Moosehead Lakefront Motel owners. The Indian Hill Motel, in December of 2011, situated across the street from NE Whitewater, was going through a few changes of their own. The owners of the motel were prepared to operate their own business and turned the motel back over to Callie and Bill Muzzy. NE Whitewater were asked if they wanted to operate the motel and they assumed management responsibility of the business starting in January 2012.

Northeast Whitewater continuously evolves in this dynamic and ever-changing business climate. They bought allocations from Maine to expand their company and were able to raft on the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers on Saturdays in the months of August and July. Allocations are areas that are owned by Maine which are sold at auction to the highest of bidders. The only method that allocations become obtainable is if a business sells their company and allocations revert back to Maine, or if the rafting business doesn’t raft a percentage of their allocations, these allocations also can revert back to Maine and be resold. In being able to raft on all of Maine’s rivers seven days per week, it has been an extremely positive step for these outfitters.

In 2016, Northeast Whitewater entered its 10th season in business. After renting buildings to host their rafting business, they were fortunate enough to buy their own property where they started their 2016 water rafting season in their new location at Moosehead Lake.

Their new lodge portrays the woodsy appearance of Maine. It is a wonderful place for guided services and water rafting excursions. Since this outfitter is the only adventure concierge in Moosehead Lake, they continuously partner with Moosehead Hills Cabins, Gray Ghost Camps, Wilsons on Moosehead Lake, Chalet Moosehead Lakefront Motel, and Balsam Woods Campground for their visitors’ cabin, motel, and camping needs.

They’re working diligently to make connections with others in their community and beyond, to provide leading outdoor adventures, expand their business, and exceed visitor expectations through value of service provided. They’re fully committed to making memories, building relationships, and offering superior customer service. That way, their visitors want to come back because when they imagine Maine water rafting, they imagine how they made their experience so unique.

There’s so much to offer their guests as they go to the Moosehead Lake Region, yet they also want their visitors to experience all Maine offers. They’re the closest Maine water rafting business to Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor, ME, in which vacationers flock in the summer season to consume lobster, watch whales, shop and explore the rocky coast of Maine. Baxter State Park, as well as Maine’s biggest mountain, forever-wild and beautiful Mount Katahdin, are just fifty miles away.

Northeast Whitewater is thrilled about where they’ve come from, what they’re doing now, and how they see themselves down the road. What is great about this journey is that their community, staff, and guests have played a part in the process. They’re thankful that they were ambitious enough to begin their journey and are really looking forward to where the river is going to lead them.

5.) Laurel Highlands

water rafting
Photo Credit:laurelhighlands.com

In 1971, Mark McCarty, Owner and President of Laurel Highlands River Tours, started to call Ohiopyle his “home,” yet had been going to the region for some time before that time. McCarty initially found the Youghiogheny River and Ohiopyle region in the 1960’s when he and his dad came from Mentor, OH for scouting visits. In 1965, he initially worked as a raft guide upon the Lower Yough. In addition, Mark was one of the first individuals to paddle the Cheat River inside Albright, West Virginia.

He was the river manager for an additional company in Ohiopyle when, in the year 1978, he and Linda, his wife, bought Laurel Highlands River Tours. In the earlier days, rafting wasn’t all that popular. However, in the first year, Laurel Highlands doubled the amount of folks they took down the river. Mark continuously jumps on the river any opportunity he gets and still lives in Ohiopyle with his family and wife — son Patrick, and daughters Liz, Jamie, and Stacey. All lend a helpful hand to their family business.

Linda McCarty, Co-Owner and Vice President of Laurel Highlands River Tours, was born in Ohiopyle. Linda initially went water rafting when she was in high school which isn’t unusual now, yet very much so during that time. She didn’t run the entire river, just the “Loop” section upon the Lower Yough, however, she recalls that she was “excited” about it. Linda’s parents, also Ohiopyle natives, helped operate the Ohiopyle House Hotel, in which she spent most of her time as a child. The Ohiopyle House Hotel lends its reference to the Cafe that her daughter opened in June 2001. She has always had love for Ohiopyle and has bought several houses in town to make the guest houses they provide today.

6.) Jump and Raft

water rafting
Photo Credit:@JumpnRaft

The Penobscot River is a real Class V Maine water rafting experience which is going to challenge the skills of even the most advanced water enthusiasts. The 13-mile long adventure offers challenging Class V rapids, as well as the reward of clear flat water as you float and relax along Mount Katahdin.

In addition, the Penobscot River is dam controlled and flows at 1,800-3,600 cubic feet per second, seven days per week all throughout the season. Penobscot rafting season is a bit shorter because of a smaller water source and usually runs from May through September. The lower levels of water offer a set of rapids which are going to keep visitors on the edge of their seat.

Maine Whitewater Rafting

Penobscot River is unique in that it offers a number of different style rapids which you’ll conquer all throughout the day! There are rapids like The Exterminator (V) which is all about power to get through. Then there are additional rapids, such as The Cribworks (V), which is more about strategic maneuvers and finesse. It’s this blend of breathtaking scenery and dynamic whitewater that make this river a truly gorgeous place.

Penobscot River Trips actually shuttles to and from the river in conjunction with the use of paddles, life jackets, and helmets to remain safe in the water. They’ll stop halfway (on a one-day trip) for a homemade barbecue lunch complete with your selection of chicken, steak, hamburger, fish, or vegetarian, with all the fixings. The tour ends with a video and photo presentation from the trip that day back at their Penobscot Outpost. This river is a real Class V journey by anyone’s standards with sufficient adrenaline to get even the most seasoned of paddlers going.

7.) Ocoee Rafting

water rafting
Photo Credit:@OcoeeRafting via FB

This one is the oldest outfitters on the Ocoee River with years of rafting expertise. No experience is needed to appreciate the adventure of water rafting upon the World Class Ocoee River. Tennessee law requires that every participant be at least 12 years old. Every participant must sign a release of liability form and a waiver. Ocoee Rafting company has an unrivalled safety record, and their guides have the reputation of being some of the best and most experienced river guides.

 

 

8.) Wilderness Voyageurs

water rafting
Photo Credit:@WildernessVoyageurs

Rafting excursions include Class two, three, and four water rapids which provide excitement and fun for novice rafters and beyond. Suitable for enthusiastic beginners, older children (age 12+), and skilled adventurers, these excursions offer so much fun to individuals and families each year. They provide you 4 different choices for rafting the Lower Yough segment of the Youghiogheny River, depending upon your previous paddling experience.  Their standard Lower Yough rafting excursion is guided. Multiple guides are going to be in kayaks and rafts, helping visitors captain their raft down the river.  If you need to guarantee a guide in the boat, select the Guide in Boat option.  If you have previous experience paddling, you may want to rent a raft then go by yourself down the river.

Lower Yough Raft Rentals

Wilderness Voyageurs offers 3 water rafting trips which provide a world-class adventure on Class three, four and five rapids. Class five level white water is the most challenging level commercially run within the states. Those trips also are close to Columbus, Cleveland, Washington DC and Pittsburgh, which makes them some of the most accessible class four and up rafting to major cities.

Families can enjoy float trips and whitewater rafting in the Middle Yough segment of the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park and the Laurel Highlands. As well as in West Virginia on the section of the Cheat River Narrows. Both river sections provide a wonderful introduction to water rafting for families. Talk about an unforgettable journey for you and the kids.

Do you have older children? Try the Lower Yough river trip that is more adventurous, for ages 12+.

Ohiopyle’s Family Fun Activities

Along with water activities, Ohiopyle State Park offers family-friendly activities across 20,000 acres. Select from seventy miles of hiking trails, most of them are kid-friendly. There also are an abundance of places to swim on the Meadow Run and Youghiogheny, such as the Natural Water Slides, directly at the end of town. Stop into their Wilderness Voyageurs Outfitters shop inside Ohiopyle at the north end of town. Their team will be glad to help you with in-depth details on the best biking and hiking trails, ice cream spots and swimming holes for you and your loved ones to enjoy.

9.) Grand Canyon West

water rafting
Photo Credit:@GrandCanyonWest via Facebook

One of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World is the Grand Canyon, every turn providing a special view unlike the one before. The sightseeing tours of Grand Canyon West provide guests the chance to view the canyon from the water, earth, and sky – all in a day. Stroll on the Skywalk, get onto a pontoon boat for a Colorado River expedition, or drop into the canyon by helicopter – there’s so much to do here.

10.) Three Rivers Whitewater

water rafting
Photo Credit:threeriverswhitewater.com

Maine’s most popular river for whitewater rafting is the Kennebec River! The Kennebec River caters to a broad array of groups with amazing class III and class IV rapids upon the upper river. The calmer class II rapids are found on the lower river.

The Kennebec River runs at high flows seven days per week, which makes for some of the most consistent whitewater within the country. Their 1-day water rafting excursion on the Kennebec River is a world-class, 12-mile wilderness journey which includes a homemade barbecue lunch. The minimum age for Kennebec River rafting is 10 years of age, but, arrangements for younger guests may be made so that they’re able to join the excursion upon the lower river. During your Kennebec River rafting trip, you will have the ability to appreciate amenities at Forks Outdoor Fun Resort. They also provide two-day rafting expeditions, guide training, as well as tube rentals and inflatable kayaks.

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