Newbie from Oregon...lots of questions... - Mountain Buzz

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Old 12-21-2018   #1
Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 10
Newbie from Oregon...lots of questions...

Hi all,

Writing from Portland OR. I grew up in the Rogue Valley, and floated the Rogue many times as a kid. Only did the lower section once though, in a yellow Tahiti. I have a wife, 1 year old daughter and water loving dog now. We're looking to start doing family friendly floats. John Day, Grand Rhonde, and any others you folks might recommend. We camped all spring and summer, our daughter was 3 months on her first camping trip, so we are comfortable camping and being outdoors with her. Also have lots of camping gear, so we are set there. Looking for raft specific gear recommendations.

What boat size would you recommend? 14 footer? 15 footer?

I'm having a hard time figuring out whether to go new or used. I've been to Andy and Bax, they didn't have many boats. He said he was getting rid of all remaining stock, making room for new boats this spring. I've also searched CL, but not much is on there. Seems like I could get into a new RMR 14 DS floor setup with frame, box, cooler, oars, etc for $5500 or so, and go up from there. Or do I stay local, spend a bit more and go with Sotar/AIRE, etc? I'll most likely pick up a trailer to haul whatever I end up with. I have a 3/4 ton truck, so towing not a problem. Anyone have any local hookups for good deals on boats and gear?

Besides the boat, I also plan on taking a rowing class or seminar from someone nearby...looks like Zach at NW Rafting offers classes on rowing/raft safety/etc. Anyone take one from him? Also looks like Oregon Whitewater Association might have classes, thoughts on this?

Been doing lots of research on this site and others for trips. Also picked up Oregon River tours and Soggy Sneakers, yet to read either though. Would definitely appreciate recommendations on good kid friendly floats though.

'Appreciate your thoughts and input.


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Old 12-21-2018   #2
the grove, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
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Old 12-22-2018   #3
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Huson, Montana
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Yeah,,, It's like that
You've come to the right place
"You're gonna be doin a lot of doobie rolling when youre LIVIN IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER"
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Old 12-22-2018   #4
Nye, Montana
Paddling Since: 2012
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I usually buy from. Drl river gypsy out of the Albany area. 10% off new boats and 20% off accessories if you purchase raft from him.
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Old 12-22-2018   #5
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 197
I went new myself, figuring I wanted to be trouble free for years to come. For a family of 4 we did a 14', although 15' would be fine. We only do over nights, no daily runs. Desolation or San Juan in Utah are great kid friend runs, all be it with some remote commitment. Also looking at the main of the Salmon myself.
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Old 12-22-2018   #6
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Tabernash, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jan 2015
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Also check out the North West River Supply site, they seem to have a few deals on new and Demo boats right now.

Definitely take a rowing and river safety class, especially with wanting to take your kids eventually. Even easy runs have inherent dangers, and it can be easy to get in over your head when you are first learning, and that's the last thing somebody wants with there family. I am not familiar with classes at NW Rafting, but Zach has always made a good impression to me, on this site. Do some training like you say, and get some practice under your belt before you take your kids out, and make sure you have done the section at least once at similar water levels first.

I wish I had advice on kid friendly floats to give you, but I live down in Colorado, and just am not that familiar with Oregon rivers.

Going with other people that have experience is really a good thing to do, especially at first. Even when I was an experienced guide, I never liked being the only boat when I was responsible for other peoples kids, I wanted that extra safety for them.

Learning to run rivers has been one of the best things I have done in life, and good on ya for wanting to take your kids out, and spend time with them on the river! Fishing out on the Gulf Of Mexico with my Dad, is one of the most memorable things that I have, and will have for the rest of my life, even when he's gone.
We can't always agree, but we can still be civil to each other.
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Old 12-25-2018   #7
Arnold, California
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 266
John Day & Grande Ronde are both great places to start. Even class 2 can have consequences for non-swimmers (I.e. toddlers). But Iíve taken mine so no judgement here.
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Old 12-26-2018   #8
the grove, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
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You wouldn't let a 16 year old new driver, drive your baby in a car. Don't take your kids on the river, any river, until you have plenty of experience. Water, a lake or any river of any class, will kill you quick. A guy killed 2 of his kids on the "easy class II" grande ronde this year. Literally think of rowing a boat as learning to drive a car. It will take a lot of practice to do it safely. Its not like you are going to take a couple day Class from Zach and now you are ready to take your little kid on a float trip.
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Old 12-27-2018   #9
Join Date: Jun 2018
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I don’t like to mix in with other people’s business, so this reply is uncomfortable for me. Please take my view point for what it’s worth; the view of a father with young kids that loves the outdoors and river activities and wants my kids to enjoy those with me. I think the original poster and I have a lot in common. So I want to share a few things that I feel strongly about in a spirit of comradery.

Totally agree with the comments about river safety with kids. You should go several times without them first. Go with other people that know what they are doing. Preferably, others in a similar family situation that are experienced on the water.

I’m not familiar with rivers in Oregon, but I do have experience with kids and water. Here a few things to consider very seriously.
1) getting a properly fitted life jacket for small children is really difficult. Maybe impossible. I can’t over emphasize this. Their little bodies tend to have all the weight up high. For a person to float head up and feet down in a life jacket, their feet have to be heavy enough to pull down. (Imagine throwing an empty life jacket into the water, notice how it naturally floats on its front or back, not “standing up”. It’s your body weight that makes the life jacket “stand up” in the water, more specifically, your lower body weight). Little kids tend to have short small legs and big heads. Exactly the wrong proportions for a life jacket to work correctly. This is the number one reason we only do completely flat water with our youngest kids. Put your child in a life jacket and toss them into pool and you’ll notice how long and ackward it is for them to achieve that correct floating position with their head up and their face out of the water and their feet down. The head pillows on life jackets sometimes make matters worse for them by pushing their face too far forward. A river with currents and such becomes a scary situation. The few life jackets we have found that work ok, really aren’t suitable for anything more than still water. Please be careful. And cautious.

AND kids like water. SO they have to wear their life jacket even on shore. Kids disappear from view in an instant because they wanted to look at the water again. When we camp, my kids are constantly in motion and bouncing from one attention grabbing activity to the next. Before I can stop them, they are back at the waters edge.

2) A boat for most small children is incredibly fun for 20 or 30 minutes. Then quickly turns boring. They can’t stop and get out. They can’t do something else. They can’t.... be prepared. Have snacks and games and such at the ready. My 6 year old is awesome in a boat and loves it all. My ten year old gets bored quickly. My 3 year old isn’t sure what she is yet. My 13 year old loves it. Longest float my younger two have been on was an hour. It is a flat water small small river with easy exit points. They swam a bunch at stops. They loved the first half hour. But after an hour of boat time, they where done.

3) when ever I bring my kids along (which is as often as makes sense and is safe), my personal work load goes up by way more than double. I think it’s worth it. I know plenty of others that don’t. Be prepared.

The three items above, I think, mostly sum up why there are very few young kids on the river. Safety, Attention span, Work load. All three are difficult. The safety aspect can be really hard to cover all your bases. The parent in me discourages anyone from taking small kids on any water activity (not reality, I know). However, we have done a few small things on flat water and had fun. Please be cautious.

As for your other question (only question?), we have an extremely old 15’ boat that is versatile and works well. Although a brand new 14’ or 15’ will work well too. I just want you to know that you don’t have to spend the $$ on new, if someone can guide you on a used purchase. For the rivers, imho, that are appropriate for your crew (flat water with gentle current) your needs will be met by most any 14’ or 15’ boat. I like a bit more space, and would recommend 15’.

Finally, kids benefit a lot from stable footing. We have an I-bean floor and a family member has a drop stitch floor. No question that the drop stich (which gets really firm and flat) is much better for kids. Don’t even consider it if it isn’t a self bailer of some kind.

A lot to think about. Good luck,
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Old 12-27-2018   #10
Tres Piedras, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 76
The RMR would be an excellent choice. Taking a swiftwater rescue class would be prudent, as would gaining some experience first, (screwing up), without the littles in the boat. Since you mentioned camping, you might also look out for a used setup that would have your frame, cooler, drybox and etc for multiday trips. The sticker shock is real when looking at new whitewater rafting gear.
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