5 Reasons Kids Should Go on Rafting Trips
Growing up, my family vacations centered around the outdoors. The highlight of my summers was always going on week long backpacking or rafting trip. My brothers and I were often the only kids on these trips but we were never bored. We found ways to entertain ourselves by playing games, swimming, or convincing the adults remember what it was like to be a kid. My dad did not tolerate any complaining so my brothers and I learned to be comfortable being a little bit uncomfortable. Regardless, the best memories of my childhood are all from these outdoor trips. As a guide, families on my rafting inspire me to give children a trip they will not forget. Kids on rafting trips flourish on the river by playing, creating, and entertaining themselves with nature.
1. No Technology!
First and foremost, rafting trips have no technology! I rarely see kids sitting around at camp on an ipad or cell phone. When I do, I try and encourage them to join me in the latest game of bocce ball or cards. Luckily, kids on rafting trips usually forget about their media devices by lunch the first day. Colors, sounds, smells, and thrills of the river replace the constant LED stimulation they are used to. Other things, like digging in the sand or playing capture the flag with the guides, entertain them instead. Rather than listening to music or watching videos, they sing songs out loud or create skits to present to the adults and guides.
Almost always, kids wish the rafting trips were longer; they do not want the fun to stop! Before the prevalence of electronics, kids were forced to use their imagination and did not need screens. Taking them back to this type of environment on rafting trips is a healthy reset for everyone.
Deep down, I think kids are their happiest when they are using the creative, imaginative parts of their brain in the great outdoors.
2. Push comfort zones
This past summer, while working a trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River we were camped at Little Pine. A grueling 1,200 foot switchback climb from this camp leads to one of the best views of the river at Johnson Point. We did not have time to do this hike the evening we arrived at camp, so a few of us guides offered it to the guests as a sunrise mission.
That night two dads, on the trip with their 9 and 10 year old daughters, expressed interest in the hike. The girls had been having a great trip; they loved the rapids and were pushing past fears of the big waves. In addition, they had to suffice with the food we were cooking instead of their “kid” food back home. I thought the dads would be up for the hike, but I had doubts the girls would. To my utter surprise, both the girls and dads were up in the morning and made it all the way to the viewpoint. Admittedly, both girls more or less grumbled their way up but were happily rewarded with cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
This is just one of many times that I see kids go beyond what I thought or they thought their comfort levels. Positively motivating kids to move past their comfort zones are some of my proudest moments while guiding. The kids themselves shine and you can see how proud they become of their accomplishments.
3. Sleep outside
I encourage people to sleep under the stars during the mild, bug-less summer nights, especially on the Rogue River. Kids are often apprehensive the first night but by the second or third night I can convince them it is a good idea. I bet them that if they wake up in the middle of the night, they will not be able to count the stars. I also encourage them to try and see a shooting star before they fall asleep.
Most kids have never seen the Milky Way. When they wake up in the middle of the night, they are amazed by how many stars they can see. It opens their eyes to how big the world truly is. They marvel at the little satellites moving soundlessly through the night. Seeing kids in the morning, after a night under the stars and sprawled halfway in the sand, I know they will remember the time they slept outside next to the river.
4. Get Dirty
At the end of our trips, we like to go around and hear people’s favorite moments. In general, kids talk about the rapids or when their dad fell in while kayaking or the giant bear they saw. A couple years ago, I had a kid on my trip who was 8 or 9 years old. The first camp we stayed at had a big sandy hill and he was so excited when I told him, yes, that would be our camp. He ran off the boat and immediately knelt onto the bank to start making sand castles. He was absolutely covered in sand but I do not think he stopped until dinner time. At the end of the trip, with a big smile, he told everyone that his favorite moment was the sand. I will never forget this because usually people hate the sand.
On river trips, it does not matter if your kid gets covered in sand or whipped cream, the river is a great bath and you are outside. In a world full of scary things, getting a little bit dirty is not the end of the world. River trips can teach both parents and kids this.
5. Role Models
While trying to give adults the best river trip ever, we are also trying to give kids a vacation they will not forget. We push ourselves mentally and physically working on the river while forgetting to have still fun and enjoy our job. I love being able to take boats full of kids down the river, making them forward paddle the whole day. Playing games with kids at camp gives me joy and takes away stresses that I may have from the day. I like showing kids what hard work is too. We encourage them to help us carry gear off the boat and even wash dishes. Us guides are usually joking around and having fun the whole day, even during the mundane tasks like washing dishes. Kids see this and are often inspired to come and help us.
I hope that kids watching us having fun working hard can encourage them to work hard too. Our goal is to be happy, fun guides for the adults and children. Many parents have approached me at the end of the trip to thank us for being role models to their children. It is good for kids to see that there is more to life than working a 9-5 job.
Wondering which river trip to sign up for now? Check out this list of the best family river trips in the west.