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Rafting With Kids…All you Really Need to Know

If you live in Idaho chances are you and your family are fortunate enough to experience for yourself Wild and Scenic Idaho, and all that comes with this great state.   Many families in Idaho have their own rafts and gear, however many people especially visitors to the gem state rely on outfitters and guides to provide the equipment, knowledge and gear for that much need family vacation. When on a guided trip I’ve learned a thing or two about taking to the river with kids in tow. When you go with a group or guided trip, this is all you really need to know…

Follow packing list guidelines. When you book a whitewater rafting trip with an outfitter, you’ll be sent a packing list. You should follow it religiously, you and your family will not be sorry. Think you won’t need gloves or a knitted cap in July? You better hope not if you decided to skip these items! On the other hand, don’t add too much to the list either. The only extra items you really need bring are additional pairs of sunglasses. Cheap ones. For when the original pairs sink to the bottom of the river. (Hopefully, your kids won’t be as averse to Chums, because of the cool factor)

Let your kids take some risks. While on a guided rafting trip, parents have the luxury of a second opinion in the form of rafting guides. Here on the Salmon River, when in doubt whether your 12-year-old can run a Class IV rapid in an inflatable kayak solo, ask your raft guides. They’re impartial, after all, and will be the first to encourage hesitant kids to push their limits and gently nudge confident kids in the right direction. Sit back and be amazed at what your kids can do.

Don’t worry about the kids getting bored. Really. Even if you don’t have kids who typically entertain themselves in the outdoors, or if—maybe especially if—you have kids whose primary entertainment is technology or screen-focused. They’ll make friends, be worn out by the day’s exertions, and be entertained by your guides. Most kids always return from whitewater rafting trips bursting with new riddles, card games, and stories they can’t wait to share with friends at home. Bring small items to play with in camp, such as a Frisbee, deck of cards, or fishing pole, and that’s it.

Be the parent. Outdoor guides seem like they’d be amazing babysitters, but sadly, that’s not actually part of their job. While great guides will play with your kids and be their buddies, it’s still up to parents to actually parent the kids. This is easier on a rafting trip than at home, however, because 1) the kids are too tired to argue with you, and 2) the guides will lay down group ground rules that are simply common sense, such as, ‘look below before you jump off rocks’ and ‘don’t let your kids swim alone’. And when all the parents keep their kids in check, everyone’s happy.

Plan to stay near the river after disembarking. Most families make the mistake of rafting and getting right back in the car and on to the next spot. We also suggest staying in the Stanley and Sun Valley area instead of trying to make miles to the next destination. After your rafting trip chances are the family will be worn out so instead of a long road trip or red-eye flight home. Do yourself a favor and book a resort or hotel room for at least one night post-rafting. Spend the extra vacation time reminiscing about your favorite moments on the river and enjoy the beauty of Idaho.

For more information on rafting trips in the Sun Valley, Idaho and Stanley, Idaho areas please visit or give us a call at 1-800-571-7238. We offer first rate, lunch, half-day, kayaking and fishing trips on the Salmon River.

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