family whitewater rafting trips

Michael Lanza's family sea kayaking in Johns Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park.

7 Tips For Getting Your Family on Outdoor Adventure Trips

By Michael Lanza

In the Digital Era, the idea of families spending sustained time outdoors—actually taking trips built around some outdoor adventure enjoyed together—can feel like a wonderful aspiration that’s awfully hard to achieve. But that lifestyle is a reality for many families—and always has been for mine—and one that brings parents and children together for long periods of time (hours or even days!) in beautiful places in nature for an activity that’s genuinely fun and, most importantly, unplugged.

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A kayaker paddling the Green River in Desolation Canyon, Utah.

Rafting the Green River’s Desolation and Gray Canyons

By Michael Lanza

Our two prop planes climb to 2,000 feet above the Green River, flying north from the tiny airport in the one-horse town in southeast Utah that shares the river’s name. The brown current far below wiggles between castle-like walls in a canyon carved deeply into the Tavaputs Plateau, a twisting labyrinth of towers and sharp edges that looks not much more decipherable from up here than it does trying to navigate it down there. The early-morning sun slashes across the tops of the tallest formations—which are about level with us—but has not yet reached the shaded canyon bottom.

Most conspicuous, though, is what’s unseen: any significant footprint of civilization beyond an occasional rough, rambling line of hardened earth and rocks that constitutes what passes for a road out here. We are heading into one of the most inaccessible patches of the U.S. West and one of the largest roadless areas in the Lower 48, to float through that yawning canyon.

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Whitewater rafters in Cliffside Rapid, Middle Fork Salmon River, Idaho.

Reunions of the Heart on Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River

By Michael Lanza Sitting in my inflatable kayak as our flotilla of more than a dozen rafts and kayaks launches on our first morning on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River, I just drift and wait. And it takes only a moment before the feeling sinks in deeper than the warm sunshine on my skin: serenity. The profound peacefulness …

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Rafters floating the Gates of Lodore section of the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.

Why Conservation Matters: Rafting the Green River’s Gates of Lodore

By Michael Lanza

The momentarily sedate current of the Green River pulls our flotilla of five rafts and two kayaks toward what looks like a geological impossibility: a gigantic cleft at least a thousand feet deep, where the river appears to have chopped a path right through the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah. Sheer, cracked cliffs of burgundy-brown rock frame the gap. Box elder, juniper, and a few cottonwoods grow on broad sand bars backed by tiered walls that seem to reach infinitely upward and backward, eclipsing broad swaths of blue sky. A great blue heron stalks fish by the riverbank. We notice movement on river left and glance over to see two bighorn sheep dash up a rocky canyon wall so steep that none of us can imagine even walking up it.

These are the Gates of Lodore, portal to a canyon as famous today for its scenery and wilderness character as it was infamous for the catastrophes suffered by its first explorers, who set out in wooden boats a century and a half ago to map the West’s greatest river system.

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Middle Fork Salmon River, Idaho.

Ask Me: Can You Recommend Rafting Outfitters and Trips?

Hi Michael,

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?

Kind regards,
Lafayette, CA

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