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What to Expect on a Whitewater River Rafting Trip

5 Things You Can Count On

By

Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia's Cheat River

Whitewater Rafting West Virginia's Famed Cheat River Canyon

Photo © by George E. Sayour

Whitewater River Rafting is one of the most exciting outdoor activities available to the weekend warrior or average Joe outdoorsmen out there. It’s the kind of adventure that is great to share with friends and lends itself well to making a weekend excursion out of it. In the end, whitewater rafting always leaves it’s participants wanting for more and with stories enough to fill the often long ride home.

Most people have their own ideas or impressions about what a whitewater river rafting trip entails. Here are some points and questions about rafting you may not have considered in preparation for your next (or first) whitewater river rafting trip.

  1. Expect to Get Wet on a Whitewater Rafting Trip

    I know that getting wet on a whitewater rafting trip sounds like it’s a no-brainer and should go without saying. Still, there are a few people out there who think they are merely taking a ride “on” the river rather than fighting for their lives in the river. As overdramatic as that is, count on getting wet. This means that you should dress for the occasion and only bring things that can, in fact, get wet.

    Getting wet while whitewater rafting is a welcome reprieve from the heat on a hot summer day. It also adds to the thrill and excitement of the whole experience even in cold weather and water. Furthermore, the raft guides will usually let you jump in and swim at some point during the trip so you’ll want to be ready for that. Of course, there is always the chance of getting thrown out of the raft as you barrel down the river and as such it is imperative a person know how to swim. So the bottom line is to count on getting wet. Remember, if you don’t get wet while whitewater rafting then you’re probably doing something wrong.

  2. Expect to Be Cold on a Whitewater Rafting Trip

    That you will be cold while rafting might not be readily apparent unless you are going in early spring when you’d expect both the air and the water to be frigid. The truth is that it can be cold even in the summer months on whitewater rafting trips. Often times the water can come from deep under a reservoir or it may even be from some late season snow melt. Add the cold mountain water temperature with the air that often whips through the canyon or down the slopes of the mountains into the river beds and you can imagine that it does indeed get cold on these trips.

    Wetsuits are recommended to combat the cold during the spring months. You can usually rent them from the rafting company but you may want to arrange for this ahead of time if you do. If you plan to go rafting in chilly conditions more than once in your life, it would pay to buy your own wetsuit. This will save you on rental fees and also spare you from having to wear those rental wetsuits if you know what I mean. Wool socks, polypropylene long underwear, and windbreakers are also good to combat the cold.

    It may very well be that a bathing suit is fine in the summer but it’s best to ask the rafting company what type of attire is best to wear for the particular time of year and river you will be rafting. On a side note, since we are discussing paddling clothing, you should always have on protective footwear which have a closed toe and fit securely on the foot.

  3. Expect to Have a Long Bus Ride on a Whitewater Rafting Trip

    Most people underestimate the often long bus rides that accompany a whitewater rafting trip. These rivers are usually in heavily wooded areas and might have limited road access. This means getting to and from the river could take you some time. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it and the shuttle to get to and from the river is just a part of the whole process.

    You can make things easier on yourself by taking a few precautions up front which in the long run will make this part of the trip at least bearable. First, go to the bathroom before getting on the bus. Second, bring a snack for the drive and plan on storing a snack and drink for the drive back. Third, see if you can have a towel and dry clothes on the bus that will be picking you up. There’s nothing worse than being cold, wet, hungry, and having to go to the bathroom while being stuck on a bus navigating the windy and steep roads after a whitewater rafting trip.

    It would be a good idea to ask the question of your raft company as they could tell you exactly how long of a drive it will be to the put-in and from the take-out.

  4. Expect Not to Be Able to Bring Anything on the Raft

    Rafts generally have very limited space for anything other than people. Rafts will usually carry a first aid kit and if you’re going on a half or full day trip a cooler for lunch. Believe it or not that’s probably all the raft will hold. What room there is on the floor won’t hold much of anything for long since you will be going through waves, surfing the holes, and with the possibility of flipping the raft.

    Remember also that anything you bring on the raft will get wet and is easily damaged. All of this is to say, don’t count on bringing anything on the raft with you. Of course, there can be ways around this by carrying small items in your lifejacket, paddling jacket or windbreaker, and any tight fitting pack you can wear on your waist.

  5. Expect to Receive Whitewater Rafting Training on the Trip

    It is quite common to wonder if you will receive training on your rafting trip. The answer is yes you will. It is in the rafting outfitters best interest for you to enjoy your time with them. It is also in their best interest that everything from the unloading of the raft to paddling down the river is as safe as it can be. Both mean that you must be trained and it is up to them to do so.

    The training will usually consist of a video at the beginning of the day. Then at the river they will go through how to carry the raft on land as well as the signals your raft guide will use while on the water. Once on the water you will practice basic strokes with the paddle as you follow the guides commands. Of course all of this varies from outfitter to outfitter but it will be covered in some fashion or other.

Above all else, expect to Have Fun on a whitewater river rafting trip!

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