The water swirled around the narrow passage between the boulders just under the surface of the water, tossing our raft high into the air as our paddles moved in unison. Over the first wave, we crashed back down, sending spray into the raft even as we maneuvered the next turn around the adjacent rocks protruding up on our right. I hear a “Whoa!” and a squeal on my left, and I know this trip was a great choice. A mom win for me! Here’s why taking your teens whitewater rafting can be an amazing experience the whole family will remember.
Why take your teens whitewater rafting?
- Adventure. As teenagers, the kids are ready for a big adventure. While rafting, they’ll be helping navigate around rocky passages, paddling hard and fast, and splashing down into waves. Depending on water levels, they may even have the opportunity to paddle their own small inflatable rafts, or duckies. The feeling of independence and victory is always a winner with this age group.
- Thrill. They’ve been riding the heavy duty roller coasters for a few years and love the adrenaline rush of activities that bring a little sense of danger. Rafting has the speed and turns of those big coasters, plus the unpredictability of Mother Nature. Because teens are older and stronger they’re ready for the larger class III-V rapids that adults can handle, so the whole family can enjoy the same level of intensity.
- Water + Phones = Sadness. To keep the phones safe and dry, everyone has to leave their devices safely on dry land. No emails, no wifi, and no selfies unless it’s the old fashioned kind with a real (waterproof) camera for anyone. Trust me, no one will be complaining about it.
- Family Bonding. OK, this one sounds kind of cheese-tastic, but what’s a family trip without a little cheesy fun? In the smoother waters between rapids, there can be time to swim, float, or splash each other. Sometimes guides even keep water blasters for a fight with other rafts. Since there’s no way to leave and the distractions of electronics, carpool, exams, or meetings are gone, it’s amazing how fast everyone remembers they like each other!
- The views. Since rivers for rafting often cut deep channels into the surrounding countryside, there’s no place more unique for viewing than in the middle of it. In certain areas, boats may even be the only way to access parts of the landscape. Rivers usually play a large part of a region’s history, so you may also be able to catch a glimpse of how the area was formerly used.
Bonus Life Lesson!
Teamwork. There’s a reason plenty of camps and groups for teens include whitewater rafting. Like ropes courses or other team-building adventures, everyone needs to work together to make everything work properly. Each side of the raft must listen to the leader (raft guide) and synchronize paddling to make it through each rapids safely. Though I don’t usually plan trips around life lessons for my teens, I’m certainly not going to turn one down when it presents itself.
Choosing a Family Whitewater Rafting Trip
To help with choosing the right trip for your family, look at the size of the rapids in the trip you’re considering. Depending on the river, most outfitters have a variety of options from easy class I-II family floats to more intense class III-IV trips. However, class IV-V rafting is better left to adults and experienced older teens. I’ve listed the classification levels of rapids to help you consider the type of trip for you and your teens.
- I — Moving water, riffles, small waves
- II — Easy rapids, waves, clear channels
- III — Large waves, obstacles, narrow passages
- IV — Long rapids, unavoidable waves, many obstacles
- V — Violent rapids, extremely difficult, unseen hazards
- VI — Unpredictable, dangerous, nearly impossible to run. Not run commercially
There are great whitewater rivers across the country, so plan an exciting day-trip for your family near you. Your teens will love it!
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Thanks for meandering by!