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Old 06-30-2008   #1
Minturn, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 2
New to rafting- need advice

I've lived in CO for the last 5 years after growing up on a lake in the mid-west and rowing competitively in college. I am interested in rafting for a lot of reasons, but mainly I love the water and want to be able to enjoy it in the summer and I like to fly fish (as does my family) and want to be able to take them on float trips. But I want to make sure that I am educated before I go out and drop in.

Should I look into taking a raft guiding course? If so, are there any recommendations? Also, I am starting to look at boats...any recommendations there? I am really just starting the process (doing research) so any advice is greatly appreciated.


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Old 06-30-2008   #2
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 212
Some commercial outfitters will offer some sort of whitewater workshop that is formatted for private boaters. Generally these courses teach you how to read water, how to row effectively, river safety, and maybe some basic rescue techniques.

A good course to take beyond this type of introductory whitewater training is swiftwater or whitewater rescue. I think the most important thing to do to be safe on the river is practice swimming and rescue. Learning any rescue technique on land and never practicing is useless. If you are prepared, you'll generally have good experiences on the river.

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Old 06-30-2008   #3
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Eagle, Idaho
Paddling Since: '78
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 794
Sounds like you'll be comfortable with a pair of oars in your hands and maneuvering the rig should come somewhat quickly. However, Reading the river is what will take time, tons of practice, and plenty of encounters with ugly rocks. It's understanding what the current is going to do to your boat before it happens so you can adjust accordingly (if necessary). I would recommend looking into a rowing/guiding course with a more reputable company that may offer a private boater experience (don't know of any though, sorry). OR, you'll probably be able to hook up with some rafters on this forum that might like to help out.

Rescue is big, running rivers is serious, swiftwater rescue course would be important if you aspire to more than basic float/fishing trips.

Rafts. Most major manufacturers make good boats. Maravia, Hyside, Sotar, Vanguard, NRS, etc etc etc...many to choose from and they're all good. Find something used as you'll be beating the crap out of it for the first couple years. You'll have to decide on a frame, there are so many options, especially when it comes to fishing rigs.

Hope that helps.
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Old 06-30-2008   #4
Randaddy's Avatar
Eastern Slope, Colorado
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Don't do it! Get a job and learn to read instead.
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Old 06-30-2008   #5
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
learn to read instead
Randy just wants folks to do what he can't. Fortunately he's got a computer with those accessability tools for the illiterate!

Seriously though, reading up would be a good place to start, especially if you're thinking of buying a boat. A good read would be to start with "The Complete Whitewater Rafter by Jeff Bennett. There's a lot of great infothere on the basics, all in one place and coherently presented. The Complete Whitewater Rafter: Jeff Bennett: Books

The Buzz is a great place to post explicit questions but first consider doing searches on key topics as there's already been a volumes written on various subjects. Don't be afraid to bump a topic up if its a few years old - new folks like Randy will usually be willing to chime in.

Learn about the gear, and at the end of the season, start shopping around for a used raft setup that'll be a good starter boat. Lots of times the outfitters will sell them at reasonable prices and you can still get plenty of years of private use out of them. I personally recommend a 14' Self Bailer (SB) for Colorado - if you're only going to have one raft and especially if it'll be a family boat. A 14' is big enough for the Grand Canyon and small enough for low-volume headwaters rivers like when the Arkansas is only running 600 cfs. Sometimes you can get an outfitter to throw in old beat-up but serviceable gear like paddles, PFDs, or splash jackets.

Post on here when you want to meet up with folks - despite the testerone laden talk, there are a lot of folks that are up for mellow floats.

From Minturn you're close to Dotsero on the Upper Colorado (launch at Cottonwood Island) or the Grizzley Creek to Glenwood Springs run in Glenwood Canyon. Both of these are good beginner runs.

Welcome to rafting!

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 07-01-2008   #6
Fred Gnarquist
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carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
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Posts: 403
buy a kayak, quit your job, kayak
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Old 07-01-2008   #7
Dipshit with the most.
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Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,496
Originally Posted by fred norquist View Post
buy a kayak, quit your job, kayak
Hey Gnar dude she wants to flyfish and take out her family. ???????

I never needed to quit job to get 100 or so days a year in my yak.

I know it's not as gnar as to be unemployed and living off of your parents, but having a job ( especially one you like ) isn't such a bad thing.

Welcome to rafting Katie. There are great deals out there to be had out there especially later in the year ( when the fishing gets really good up here). Definitely try to demo some stuff, particularly with the fishing aspect.
There are some great smaller rafts, but if you love to fish you will want something with a larger tube diameter to be safer and more comfortable for whoever is fishing. I am thinking of the Hyside or Nrs ( or an Avon Adventurer, but who has 7K for a new raft? )

Try it out though, fishing that is, from the front and back of the raft you are thinking of to see how it feels.

A guide training course whether for "private" boaters or to enable you to guide part time would be a huge benefit to your learning curve

My two cents anyway.
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Old 07-01-2008   #8
Edwards, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 139
After 10 years of intermittent class II/III kayaking and rowing a drift boat maybe 5-6 times a summer I took the week long guide class from Fly Fishing Outfitters and was amazed at how much I still had to learn. That inspired me to take a swiftwater rescue class as well. I am a much more competent and safer boater now. I'd recommend looking into that type of program, you get a lot of hours in a short time with good instruction. It does help to have some hours under your belt before you sign up so jump on a boat every chance you get.
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Old 07-01-2008   #9
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Eastern Slope, Colorado
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Originally Posted by Andy H. View Post
Seriously though, reading up would be a good place to start, especially if you're thinking of buying a boat. A good read would be to start with "The Complete Whitewater Rafter by Jeff Bennett.
Nice segue Andy! You should consider reading the news; "A fire destroys yet another Southern California neighborhood... and speaking of hot did you see the Olsen twins at the Grammy's the other day?"

Raft girl, here are the courses to start you off:

Raft guide class: don't just take a 3 day course, take the full on, several week, raft 'til you puke rookie training. Even if you don't plan to work commercially, act like you do because you get lots of river time that way. Nobody's ready after 3 days... after that start small and build up slowly. Ride with friends that have experience. If you want to row, go somewhere where the rookies row.

Swiftwater rescue: No question, you should take this course if you're taking your family on any moving water!

Wilderness first aid/CPR: I recommend Vern at Trailmed up in Estes Park, but there are lots of options here.

So you're getting close to a grand for book, PFD, helmet, rope, and first 3 classes. Then comes buying the boat...

Sure you still want to do this? I hope so. It's worth it.
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Old 07-01-2008   #10
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at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,346
HI Katie-

Yes, welcome to rafting. I'm in your "boat" right now, wanting to take my boating up a notch. I want to start rowing a technical river, the Lochsa in Idaho, and know NOBODY who boats it. Most boaters I talk to think I'm crazy, whatever. So, I decided to pay my way into it.

I did a paddle trip down the river this past weekend. In 2 weeks, I'm going to do another trip with the same outfitter, following them in my boat. I'm really excited about this, by the time I do this I think I'll be ready to just do the old "hook up with someone at the put in" routine.

So the advice to check out outfitters and see what class they have is great, maybe the first time down a given river go along with an outfitter, that way you'll get a chance to follow their line and remember the major obstacles.

That is, unless you have some friends that will take you down, that is how I learned, but I'm going past their interest level now.

I also recommend at least reading the "whitewater rescue manual", available via NRS. It is a great start to safety in boating, self rescue and such, that is a minimum for boaters. Not everyone is going to take a rescue course, but you should at least read the basics.

Right, and like Andy says, ignore the testosterone, be tough if you get flamed, and ask the questions you want to ask. Underneath it all, there are a lot of good people here with great advice. And we all love to talk boating.

Have fun, and be safe!

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