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How to stay safe on your first whitewater rafting trip
Home Travel & Leisure Outdoors
By: Becky Arrien Email Article
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So, you booked a whitewater rafting trip? Congratulations, you're about to embark on the most exhilarating trip of a lifetime! I'm sure you did lots of research and found the best outfitter in your area, but now the trip is getting closer and you're getting a bit nervous. That's completely normal! Having a bit of anxiety and fear is a good thing when it comes to whitewater rafting, it means that you have respect for the river and the water. More accidents happen when carelessness and inattention comes into play. So, let that fear and anxiety loom, read this article and learn how to best prepare yourself for your first whitewater rafting trip.

Whether you booked a half day or a 6 day trip, you'll likely get a safety talk at the boat ramp or the launch area, but here are some important tips to remember.

Wear your lifejacket this may seem like a no brainer, but it's really the simplest way to stay safe while white water rafting. In Idaho, outfitters are required to provide type V pfd's (personal floatation device) to all guests going whitewater rafting. A type V life jacket refers to the foam density and pounds of floatation, basically it's the safest type of jacket you can buy! So, once you near the water's edge be sure that your life jacket is on and it is cinched down snug. So snug, in fact that it's almost hard to breathe. Sounds a bit mid-evil, but that will ensure that if you jump in the water, your life jacket doesn't float up and over your head, it needs to stay down around your mid section to do it's job correctly. Always have your life jacket on when nearing the edge of the water and at all times when in the boat.

Watch your step be careful getting around when on the river bank and especially when getting in and out of the boat. The rocks along the river's edge are very slippery, so take your time. Low and slow is a motto that our river guides use a lot, walk slowly and crouch down low when the rocks or terrain are particularly treacherous.
Listen to your guide this is especially important when it comes to a paddle boat, in which each person has a paddle. The guide will be calling out commands such as right side, left side, etc. They do this in order to navigate safely through a rapid, avoid rocks and be sure you're having the most fun possible!

Sit in a recliner if you do happen to fall into the water and you're nearing a rapid, you'll want to try to get back to boat as soon as possible. Sometimes it's not always possible to get back in the boat, you may have to float down river for a bit before being pulled back into the boat. This is OK, remember you have a type V life jacket on that will help keep you afloat, all you need to do is sit back in a la-z-boy recliner position with your feet out in front of you and float down the river. This position helps to ensure that if there are rocks in the river, you're able to bounce off of them with your feet, rather than your head or bum. You'll also have a clear view of what's to come.

Breathe above water another one of those that seems very intuitive and lacks needing to be mentioned, but it really does need to be mentioned. A lot of people will go through an initial shock that they're in the water and a moment of panic, which can lead to erratic breathing. So, take a big breath when your head is above water and hold it when it's under water!

Pay attention to your surroundings there are regional threats to watch out for and your guides will fill you in on the specifics, but it could be poison ivy, poison oak, snakes, etc. Just be aware of the land and it's threats and you'll be fine.

Above all, have fun! A whitewater rafting trip is the best way to spend a hot summer afternoon, and if you're lucky enough your planning a multi-day adventure and will be spending 3-6 days out on the river! Enjoy every minute, let the sun kiss your nose, revel in the big whitewater, leave your watch behind, dig your paddle in and live in the moment of being on the river!

Becky has been in the outdoor industry for many years, she's a whitewater rafting guide, menu planner, trip leader and systems coordinator. Basically the Jill of all trades when it comes to owning and operating a whitewater rafting company in Idaho. Feel free to contact me at: or visit us on the web at

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