I just found your blog today after starting my research for a summer guided rafting tour for families. In my next life I’d like to come back as one of your offspring! My husband would like to take our eager son on a guided, overnight rafting trip this summer to celebrate his 10th birthday: father-son trip, but someone else does the heavy lifting so dad and son can focus on enjoyment of the river, campfires and overall one-on-one time. We live in the Bay Area but our son is keen to travel for this trip—Idaho, Utah, Oregon, or Colorado, to name a few suggestions. Can you point us toward some well-regarded guiding companies and provide any insight to consider when we comparison shop?
There are a huge number of guided rafting outfitters and trips out there. I have not done any kind of comprehensive review of them all to know the best, but I do know of some good, reputable, well-established operators who offer reasonably priced trips. You may have already found my stories about our family rafting trips on Idaho’s world-class Middle Fork of the Salmon River (lead photo, above, and photo below), which we took with Middle Fork Rapid Transit, and Oregon’s Grand Ronde River—a really fun and relatively shorter trip (usually three days) that we did unguided.
Utah’s Green River has several sections that are floated on easy water, including Stillwater Canyon in Canyonlands National Park—which is technically very easy, no whitewater, but gorgeous.
Many of the trips I focus on are somewhat longer, multi-day trips (five to six days), but there are guides who lead one- and two-day trips on sections of the Snake River below Grand Teton National Park, for instance, and on sections of Idaho’s Salmon River.
Two other guide companies I know enough about to recommend, and which have trips on numerous Western rivers, are O.A.R.S., where I’ve known guides; and Holiday River Expeditions, with whom my family is planning to take a four-day rafting trip through the Gates of Lodore section of the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, on the Utah-Colorado border, next summer. That popular stretch is known for its challenging rapids and amazing canyon country.
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I’ll tell you a few trips that are on my to-do list:
The Owyhee River in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon; I’ve kayaked the upper Owyhee, which is too small to raft, but the main Owyhee River is regularly guided, very wild and pretty with lots of rapids, and not as popular as rivers like the Salmon and Green.
The Tuolumne River east of Yosemite National Park is considered one of the best overnight whitewater rafting trips in the world for its numerous class IV rapids, excellent campsites, and scenery in a federally designated wild and scenic canyon. Check out c-w-r.com/rivers/tuolumne-river.html.
The Grand Canyon, of course, is the granddaddy of long, wilderness, whitewater trips, and it happens to take place within one of the scenic wonders of the world. The park’s website lists outfitters that offer trips ranging from three to 18 days in the canyon.
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There are many more that you will find through online searches. I would simply look for an established outfitter that has been in business for many years, especially on the river you want to raft, and talk to them about safety protocols, your husband’s and son’s experience level, and their guide-client ratio. Reading their websites will provide you will good insights about how they operate and whether you just like their approach.
I think your husband and son will love any trip they take and be inspired to do more together, so I would suggest they pick a trip they have time to do and that they think will be exciting but not intimidating for them.
Good luck, thanks for writing and following The Big Outside.
Thanks so much for taking the time to send me a reply with the information! We are on it. Take care and happy summer.
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