The first time I hopped in an inflatable raft to join a group of others in challenging white water cataracts, it was on the Ottawa River. That spring had been particularly favourable in terms of water levels and current speeds, so it was quite the experience.
I remember the oldest person in our raft was somewhere in her early 70s, but she paddled harder against the current than most of the 20-year-olds who spent most of the day clinging to the lifelines that ran the length of the raft’s pontoons. Our oarsman/guide was no spring chicken either (okay, he was pushing 40). And while I’ll confess to being more than a tad nervous about the experience beforehand, once we cleared that first cataract, I knew I had found a thrilling activity that I could enjoy for many years to come.
In addition to being a thrilling ride, river rafting affords the opportunity to view the landscape from a totally different perspective. Many trips travel through wilderness areas that boast difficult walking terrain, so there is a good chance of wildlife encounters – so pack that waterproof camera!
The great thing about white water rafting is that anyone can do it – provided they are reasonably fit. That said, some trips are specially designed for those with disabilities. Safety briefings, lifejackets and safety helmets are offered by more-safety-conscious outfitters, so even novice and non-swimmers can hop aboard. As an added consideration, the company that I went with also had four kayakers in the water at all times in case of emergency. I think the only real concern was getting us rafters back to our cars after we consumed several hundred calories during the post-raft lunch that was provided.
Most provinces and states have at least one white water rafting venue. Variations in length of journey, size of rapids/cataracts, etc. will vary from one location to the other and from season to season depending on water level.
Given that rafting is an activity suitable for a wide age range, it’s a great way to spend time with the whole family – the grandkids will thrill to running the rapids as much as they will seeing the wilder side of their grandparents.
Mild to Wild offers up a wide range of trips designed for an equally wide range of ages and skill levels. Excursions include runs on the ever-popular Colorado River.
If you’d rather just hang out with other rafters closer to your own age, check out the many seniors-only trips by outfitters such as Warren River Expeditions which operates out of Idaho.
There are dozens of other white water outfitters in Canada, the US, and around Europe. Chances are, there is a destination and excursion that suits your interest and skills.