Do you love the great outdoors? Does your sense of adventure push you to try new things? If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, then you're a good candidate for an aquatic adventure with thrills that'll leave you breathless. What are we talking about? Whitewater rafting, of course!
On a whitewater rafting trip, you can expect to paddle your way down a beautiful river while enjoying the excitement of navigating through challenging rapids. While it's possible to maneuver your own raft down some whitewater rivers, there are also many outdoor adventure companies that offer guided trips down some of the most famous whitewater rivers around the world.
You don't have to be an expert at boating to enjoy whitewater rafting. Of course, it's probably a good idea to avoid whitewater rafting if you can't swim. Guided whitewater rafting trips can customize an experience for people of just about any skill level.
Whitewater refers to areas of rivers that feature rapids, which are sections of fast-moving water that often flow over drops and around obstacles, such as large boulders. Whitewater rivers can sometimes be navigated year-round, although most tend to be seasonal.
For example, the Chattooga River, which flows between Georgia and South Carolina, is a free-flowing river that can usually be navigated between early spring and late fall, depending upon rainfall. The nearby Ocoee River in southern Tennessee, however, is a dam-controlled river that has its season controlled by river authorities.
On a guided trip, you'll usually join several other people on a specialized rubber raft. Whitewater rafts are sturdy to stand up to the obstacles they often bounce off of, while also being flexible enough to allow you to maneuver through difficult rapids.
The rapids you encounter will be classified with a rating from one to six. Class one rapids move slowly with few waves and are suitable for most anyone. Class six rapids, on the other hand, have dangerous drops, huge obstacles, and turbulent waters that even professional rafters might have difficulty navigating. Most whitewater rafters enjoy guided tours that feature a mixture of easy to moderate rapids with a few challenging rapids thrown in to get your pulse racing.
On a whitewater rafting trip, you'll be expected to paddle to help get your boat downstream. Fortunately, whitewater rafting guides, often nicknamed "river rats," will be along to show you the proper strokes. They'll also help you learn more about the rapids you'll face and how to navigate them safely.
In addition to an oar, you'll also need a personal flotation device to protect you and help you float should you fall out of the raft. Many people also use special clothing, including wetsuits, when whitewater rafting during colder seasons.
Many beginners choose to take a half-day trip to get their feet wet — both literally and figuratively! Once you've been bitten by the whitewater bug, though, many people return for full-day trips or even multi-day trips with stops for camping along the river overnight. If you're up for some serious aquatic adventure, check out a whitewater river near you!