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Old 11-12-2012   #11
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
I've taken my kids as young as 2 rafting and riding with me in an IK on class II+ but like Solboater mentioned so much of the decision depends on my familiarity with the run; support network of people both in the raft and in other rafts/kayaks and their experience and attitude toward bringing kids along; my kids aptitudes and experience, etc. When taking little ones it's also nice to have one adult per kid in the raft, not including the rower/guide.

Keep it fun and introduce the kids to fun activities that they will make the trips even more fun like: playing on sand/mud bars, floating in current in PFDs, rock/cliff jumping, jumping off the raft, dancing on the front bench, surfing the front bench, wading, etc.

A few other thoughts:
a. Helmets are nice esp when running shallow rivers and if using a frame on the raft - just make sure to get kid sized helmets (Protec, WRSI, etc).
b. Kid sized farmer john wetsuits not only help keep kids warm but are great at protecting knees and shins from rocks, raft frames, and more.
c. Safety kayakers are a big plus when you start doing runs with bigger rapids.

Be safe and have fun.

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Old 11-12-2012   #12
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655

Thanks guys, for all of the tips. Our runs typically have a wide range of kayakers and rafts, so that helps with support. The Clackamas trip went well, we stopped 3 times with 1+ hour brakes for food, fun, swimming, and playing in the rocks. They are both getting comfortable swimming in lakes, my boy is comfortable in a life jacket to swim around at Timothy lake without holding on, and my daughter when she was 1.5 years would bob in my lap in a vest at the lake. The trips I take them on will be geared towards them having fun. I've gotten to the point that any river is fun to me, so I have gotten a lot of enjoyment just out of taking new people in general. I'd like to take the Jacob on the North Santiam this year, and maybe Emma on the Clackamas. She is more adventurous than him, so I think it will go well.

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Old 11-19-2012   #13
mtriverrat's Avatar
Lewistown, middle of MT
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 222
We took our kids on a four day trip on the Smith when they were 3 and 4. We rigged a gear net in the bow and they hung out and napped in there suspended off the floor. They had a blast. The secret to happy kids on the river is keep them warm. If they are cold everyone is miserable. We have gradually ratcheted up the class of water and the amount of days. We did Deso last summer and they were 9 and 10 - they had a blast. We do a trip on the North Fork of the Flathead every year and they can't wait every year.
If you lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. Winnie the Pooh
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Old 11-19-2012   #14
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,372
All good advice here. I've played the role of supporting grandparent for my 2 grandkids, and their parents, multiple times now mostly on the flatwater to class 2ish San Juan. Having an adequate number of adults is critical. One per kid beyond the oarsperson is optimal. Depending on the kids (and the parents) they can start very young on flatwater. One make or break factor is can you get them to wear their life jacket for extended periods of time? Keeping them comfortable and entertained is obviously important and I agree about the bimini being important especially on a desert float like the San Juan. Camps that are kid friendly (mostly gradual beaches w/o a lot of current) are a big factor. We've found that if things are breaking down in camp in the morning the best resolution is to push off. The rio is the best entertainment. Spent 9 days on the San Juan in early October with the 2 year old and the "3 and 3/4" year old grandkids and would launch again tomorrow if we could. Kayaks and SUPs expanded the variety of fun things for them to do. The older one had his own kayak to paddle in the flats and both got to spend time with their parents on the SUP. Find your family's comfort zone and make it happen!

PS great pic blutzski.
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Old 11-20-2012   #15
shappattack's Avatar
Up North, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,147
no kids of our own, but we are a larger rafting family. Started taking the nieces with us when they were young, starting at 2.5 years old on class II/III- multiday. Of note is that these kids have been camping since they were 2 months old and started swimming lessons very very young. Took one when she was almost 6 on the main salmon, she and her mom got bumped out on a rapid and had a good clean swim together. I think the kid was less traumatized by the swim than mom. The kid's reaction to the swim was not to freak out and never want to get in the boat again, instead she become the boat captain, pointing out potential hazards to the rower for the rest of the trip. That was a few years ago. She will probably be able to paddle an IK by her self soon on easy water. The younger one is almost 5. They both love going rafting, drift boat, and IK.
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Old 11-20-2012   #16
Rainy Northwest, Washington
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 459

I think as soon as you are doing it for them, and not for yourself, it is the right time. They grow up fast, and soon want their own boats. My son started on easy trips at 3. John Day, Deschutes.. Last summer he rowed his own cat down the Rogue, and styled the whole thing, including Blossom Bar. I was more stoked than he was. The pics are age 3 on the John Day, and last Summer.
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