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Old 11-11-2012   #1
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
Rafting with kids, what age?

I have a 4.5 year old and a 2 year old. I sold my kayaks and bought a raft, planning to take them on day trips and overnight trips. I am an experienced boater, but have little experience taking younger kids. My 4 year old has made one run down the lower Clackamas with us when he was 3, and my 2 year old will be pushing 3 next summer. How old were your kids when you started taking them on class III rivers, or overnight trips? BTW, the raft is a 14 foot Sotar, a 2008

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Old 11-11-2012   #2
Canon City, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 426
I haven't got any of my own kids, but as a commercial guide in Colorado, I have taken kids as young as 2-1/2 down the Upper Colorado. That section is mostly class I-II, with maybe 2 class IIIs. He sat in the front of the boat, on Mom's lap. I was pretty comfortable with the trip. On the Arkansas, with several class IIIs, I'm more comfortable with 4-6 years old as a minimum. I guess, if you feel there's any chance of falling out in a rapid, I'd want the kids to really be able to understand directions, and be able to swim. The worst thing we can do is give a kid a really scary experience that they'll remember for the rest of their life and never want to go on the water again. Keep it mellow! Also, lots of parents I take really want the full day experience. In my opinion, as the guide, most kids under about 10 are about done by lunchtime. Attention span, energy, etc all is lacking in the afternoon for many kids. Have fun, be safe, and follow their lead- if they're not having fun, it's time to go home!

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Old 11-11-2012   #3
no tengo
mania's Avatar
Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,768
I've been taking my girls on class II since they were less than one. class III once they were 5 or so and can move around in the water. when they each turned 7 they got to do westwater at lower flows (III+). the oldest is now 10 and I would feel okay taking her on IV- now.
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Old 11-11-2012   #4
Ashlandistan, Oregon
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 64
Started taking my son out on mellow runs at less than one, which included multidays and some class IIIish. Big consideration for me was my familiarity with the run, support network of other boaters, and access/egress. Lots of great trips between then and now for him as a six year old throughout NorCal, Oregon, and Colorado. Just ran a Lower Rogue trip with him walking around Rainie Falls/fish ladder and Blossom. What a special way to spend time with your family, Enjoy!
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Old 11-11-2012   #5
Shingle Springs, California
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 100
It really depends on the kids, do a easy run and you will see it in their eyes if they are into it and ready. Also be honest with your self....Dont take them out in the cold or when it is not a sure things that they will have a good time. To early or a bad time will end up killing it before it starts.

My kids have been doing summer time South Fork American for about a year (5 and 7) had their first Rogue trip this year at 6 and 8.

On the Rogue they did the same portages that Solboater kids did with Mom. It was a life changer for them you could see it on their faces at the end on the trip. Now all they want to do is go rafting now. My Daughter did slip and slide at 6.

It really goes back to the parent, it is about the kids and the family when they are in the boat, not pushing you limits. An accident would ruin it forever.
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Old 11-11-2012   #6
boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 298
My kids started rafting the Poudre at 3 and 5. They are now 7 and 9 and we have run hundreds of miles since then, including over 5 overnights; Deso, San Juan, Ruby Horsethief, Delores. All kids are different, but as long as you do things well within your comfort level and make sure you they are having fun, you will all have fun. Oh, yeah, and making sure the kids are having fun means that your wife will be having fun. And everyone knows that if your wife isn't having fun, no one will be having fun.
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
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Old 11-11-2012   #7
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
We've been doing kids trips with other families since ours were less than two. They have always had a blast. At that age we did flat Class II trips. With youngsters, I think having a bimini is a must. They can nap and eat lunch in the shade and float the day away.

The biggest danger in my mind is to watch that they don't fall off the front of the boat in shallow water. We had a scare when our daughter was screwing around and went over the bow in less than a foot of water. Luckily she held on to the bow line and didn't go under the boat. That would have been beyond ugly. We have a 16 footer with big tubes that come up to their chest and create a great play area up front. They have to try hard to fall out. I would be less inclined to take 2 year olds on a river trip in a 14 footer with small tubes.

Personally I won't be taking them on class III until they can swim it. They are now 4 and 5. They have started swimming in the class II current and swimming toward shore. This year we are going to work on swimming through the rapids at the local white water park. Once they can do that and stay calm, I'll take them on class III.
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Old 11-12-2012   #8
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
That has been my personal rule, if I'm gonna boat it, I need to be comfortable swimming it. I don't want to scare them. The older one is the more cautious of the 2, so I think she will catch up to him pretty quickly. Runs like the John Day and Grand Ronde are where I want to start the overnight stuff. I've always heard that the camping is awesome on the Grand Ronde, and I know that corner of the state is beautiful. I've done the Rogue, can't wait to do it again. It's been a few years.
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Old 11-12-2012   #9
MT4Runner's Avatar
Kalispell, Montana
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 1,436
I agree with the other parents.

We took our girls on the North Fork of the Flathead (easy II) when they were 1.5+.

We started taking them on the Middle Fork of the Flathead (easy III) when we were comfortable with their swimming skills--about age 6 and 8. We had them swimming some of the rapids toward the end of the season at ages 7 and 9.

I take them at all but higher flows now.

They've been on the Alberton Gorge (III+) in later summer low flows.

It really depends on the river and depends on the kids. I'd rather have my kids in bigger water without wierd eddies than have them in "flatter" water with risks of wierd eddies, holes, or wood in the river.

They have a lifetime of boating ahead of them. You don't have to get them on water you find interesting as soon as possible. You do need to show them a great time so they want more. Bring lots of snacks, squirt guns, snacks, water cannons, towels, snacks, warm dry clothes, and show them adults having a great time, too.
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Old 11-12-2012   #10
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 24
We've had our three on the grand ronde since they were 2. The 10 yr old twins just did the the other grand with us this summer. Would be glad to pass on grand ronde kid tips if you are interested, just pm.

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