Whitewater Rafting: What to Expect

Whether you’re the outdoorsy type with a great deal of hiking and camping experience, or your idea of roughing it is a hotel room rather than a suite, whitewater rafting has broad appeal. Who doesn’t want to challenge themselves in an exhilarating encounter with Mother Nature? Whitewater rafting is an excellent choice because there are rapids and guided trips for every skill level and level of interest.

At Barker-Ewing, we pride ourselves on conducting whitewater rafting trips on the Snake River that are perfect for families. If you’re thinking about giving it a try, here’s what to expect.

Rating the Rapids

The rapids we run are considered Class III. To understand what that means, though, you’ll need to know a little bit about how rapids are rated. There are six levels based on difficulty.

Class I and II rapids are the easiest, and they are considered “novice” level.

Class I: Class I really aren’t rapids at all. The water is basically flat and gently moving, with few if any waves or obstructions, and little steering is required.

Class II: Class II rapids are just a little more challenging. Medium-sized waves and a few rocks to maneuver around are the hallmarks of Class II.

Class III and IV rapids are considered intermediate level. However, Class III rapids generally pose little threat to confident first-timers on a guided trip.

Class III: Class III rapids have a combination of moderate but irregular waves and large but easy to navigate waves. There are fast currents and narrow passages, providing a thrill, but they lack the high technicality of Class IV and above. Our section of the Snake River consists of a series of Class III rapids separated by flat, calm areas where you can catch your breath and even take a quick swim.

Class IV: Class IV rapids are highly technical, and they are not recommended for beginners. They include fast moving, turbulent water, cross-currents, and many large waves.

Classes V and VI are only appropriate for experts seeking a highly intense technical challenge.

Class V: Class V rapids are considered extremely challenging. These rapids have major obstructions, high turbulence, powerful cross-currents, large drops, and unseen holes.

Class VI: To be categorized as Class VI, the rapids must be virtually impossible to navigate.

Your Rafting Experience

Whitewater rafting guides are often referred to as “river rats.” This fun nickname doesn’t encompass the high level of professionalism that these experienced guides possess. Wilderness experts with a great deal of safety training including first aid and CPR, whitewater guides are responsible for keeping you safe while giving you the adventure of a lifetime.

Your guide will meet with you on dry land and give you a safety talk. You will also receive a Coast Guard-approved life vest, which you must wear throughout the trip. You will sign a release form and board the raft.

Once your group is afloat, you will learn basic paddling techniques. No one expects you to be a master, but you will need to pay attention and catch onto the basics unless you are on a classic raft and chose to sit in the middle. The more you know, the more fully you will be able to participate in your own experience.

The entire trip will take about 3 to 4 hours or so round trip from Jackson. You can also combine a whitewater rafting adventure with lunch and a scenic river float for a full day of fun.

Ready for an Adventure?

If you’re ready for the Jackson Hole rafting adventure of a lifetime, contact Barker-Ewing today at (800) 448-4202 to book your spot.

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