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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone, my name is Cory, and my girlfriend and I went in our first whitewater rafting trip yesterday. It was a 4 person guided 8 mile run down the Snake River , just outside if Yellowstone in Jackson, Wyoming, which was a class 2 when we went. Nothing crazy, but it was a blast! We have decided that we want to get more involved in whitewater rafting and I thought I would post here for some experienced advice. We live in Cheyenne, Wyoming and here are a few of my questions:

Wetsuits...recommended or no?
If so, what are some good brands to look into and what are brands to avoid?

Better to purchase a raft, or rent?
Again, best brands?

What are some good guided and/or beginner runs around Colorado/Wyoming? We can travel some but we want to learn basics and get better before we try to get too crazy lol.

Any other pointers or advice for a couple of newbies? Thanks in advance!
 

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My advice...before you commit to the purchase of a boat, an on going and expensive project...get some miles under your belt. Learning from private boaters can be good, but their focus is usually on their trip and not teaching. I suggest looking into taking a commercial guide school course from a local rafting company. They are usually 1-2 weeks long in the early spring. You don't have to be looking for a job to do so. The focus of the course is to teach you how to maneuver a raft, read the river, and standard safety techniques. Plus its an easy way to meet people and make friends in the boating community.
 

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Wetsuits work ok. Most of the crew I boat with use drysuits. Less padding than neoprene but way more comfortable. Not for the claustrophobic as the first couple of times you get into one it feels like you are being birthed.

Best boat of any? I like Maravia. They are extremely durable, fairly light and handle almost any condition well. Some don't like the glue you have to use to patch them and others say they don't roll and get cracks from being stored rolled which is complete BS I have been rolling my boat since '98. You do have to be careful of the hard ends that stick out of the roll during transport.

Best boat on a budget? I would pick a RMR boat. Still PVC but handles more like hypalon. Used one about 25 times but haven't had to patch so there is that. I am thinking the new drop stitch floor will make it even more better.

Now is the right time to buy a boat but I think you should run some different things and get a feel for what you want to do. When I was younger all I wanted to do was kayak and run paddle boats and get big hits. Then I discovered the joy of fishing from a raft and it changed me. So depending on what water you have locally you may want a 12, 13 or 14 foot raft. Unless you are running big water or taking six plus people or doing week long trips with more than you and your gal that would be the biggest. Do you want to fish? As in an oar boat? If not look to a smaller boat. A 10 or 12 footer with two good paddlers can run almost anything - it's called R2 and is a shitload of fun. Instead of the usual guide barking commands from the back it is a much more collaborative effort. It will either make your relationship better or destroy it depending on how you achieve consensus on a line selection while under pressure. In seconds.

I do appreciate your enthusiasm but get some mileage under your belt before getting on rivers without someone else to help you. An 'easy' river can turn ugly when you have someone in the water and it can happen quickly. I have two daughters 9 and 12 and they have grown up in the boat and have both been paddle boating for several years now. Almost since they could hold a paddle. (With intense supervision). My youngest had her first 'swim' over the weekend. I was calling some spin commands as in Left Back (right side goes forward) to spin the boat as hard as possible. We had one of her friends standing on the bow and the crew tries to spin her off. This is in deep water thank God. She did a complete whiff on the back stroke and did a backwards somersault into the water. Came up shocked and laughing with her paddle in hand so it was all good. In the shallows it would not have been so good.

If you have your own drysuits I would look to an early season Middle Fork or Main Salmon trip too. The outfitters will often make you a great deal if you go down with them during their first trip when they train the new guides for the season. Not too many outfitters give you drysuits but if you have your own you would be buffed out and happy for the nastiest trip. And you get to see ripping high water. Not as training focused as a guide school but if you tell them you want to learn and run the boat in appropriate areas it would be a lot of fun. Better than seeing the same stretch of water two times a day for a week.

I'm sure others will have some ideas too. Welcome to the Dark Side.
 

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The Poudre will be your local spot to learn. It's low but runnable still. Find a small boat to rent or rent some inflatable kayaks. This is as warm as Colorado water gets, but it will still be chilly.
 

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My advice would be start with inflatable kayaks. Learn to paddle and read water. Get a handle on the basics. Then start looking for an opportunity to learn to roll a hardshell kayak. Kayaking is nice because you don't need a truck and trailer to haul your boats. My 2 cents...

MC
 

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Jared
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Welcome!

Joining a club and renting some gear can help. If you rent your gear for a season, especially from different manufacturers, you can experiences in boats. If you guys aren't taking any kids, inflatable kayaking is a better bang for your buck. There is lesson commitment (You don't have to learn to roll) and you can buy 2 IK's for a lot less than 1 raft.
Out in Oregon we have a great club called the OWA (Oregon whitewater association). They do trips geared toward teaching, and support newcomers. This has been my first year involved with them and it has been fantastic.
Guide schools or a swiftwater rescue class will teach you a lot very quickly, and make you much safer on the water.
 

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My advice...before you commit to the purchase of a boat, an on going and expensive project...get some miles under your belt. Learning from private boaters can be good, but their focus is usually on their trip and not teaching. I suggest looking into taking a commercial guide school course from a local rafting company. They are usually 1-2 weeks long in the early spring. You don't have to be looking for a job to do so. The focus of the course is to teach you how to maneuver a raft, read the river, and standard safety techniques. Plus its an easy way to meet people and make friends in the boating community.
I second JennC's comment. I got into private boating 4 years ago and in 2011 went through the 2 week guide course at one of the rafting companies on the Ark. I'm still an intermediate boater on my best day, but that training was invaluable for reading water, ferrying, river positioning, and just building confidence in a safer environment. Do all this before dropping money on a boat yourself. If you cannot rent, I think someone else suggested a ducky as a prelude to a hardshell - it's also a nice prelude to a raft and is a much cheaper foray into the sport than going all in on a raft, oars, etc. I still have my ducks and take them out when river level gets too low for raft and as additional boats for multi-day trips for kids.

Also, take a swiftwater rescue class as well if they do not cover that intensely in your raft guide training. I took that separately and it was worth every penny - plan to go back next year and bring my 15 year old son along as he's advancing in his ducky skills.
 

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The North Platte around Saratoga has some nice easy water and lots of good scenery. This is most likely the closest water to Cheyenne.

The Upper Colorado near Kremmling, CO especially the Ranch-del-Rio section has lots of opportunities for beginners, including some boat rental and instructions.

The A Section of the Green River, Utah near Dutch John has dam controlled flows and can be floated reliably all rear round. You can rent boats there as well.

Rancho Del Rio on the Colorado River - Services

Wet suit? Depends on what rivers, what kind of boat and what time of year you choose to float. Kayaks and duckies are 'wet rides' and you might want one. In a raft or dory you are high and dry for the most part. I do a lot of boating (raft, drift boat or 9' pontoon) in the CO, WY, UT and MT areas and have been fine with my gortex fishing waders, so I leave the wet suit at home. I do have knee high neoprene socks that get regular use.

The investment in a boat is significant. By the time I got all setup with the full rig I was in for $3000 on a used boat plus associated gear (PFD's, oars, bow rope, dry box, etc) later upgrades put me into $6k and plus a trailer.

There are many factors to consider on what boat to buy. Smaller boats like inflatable kayaks are a lot easier to transport than a 16' raft and frame, as a result they might get more use. I would suggest renting some boats and deciding what you like before dropping some big cash.

Find some like minded boating buddies to help you along. Look at the bulletin boards at the local raft shops, various on line message boards and local boating clubs. One of the sure fire ways to find new friends is to get a river permit! Most permits applications are sent in Jan-Feb with winners announced in March. It costs about $20 to enter and you an always return the permit if you can't use it or can't put a group together. While the group leader should have some river experience, the permit holder can be a newbie.
 

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Hello! Before we got our boat I did a lot of research (months worth). Figuring out what boat to get is more than what are the best brands. The way you plan to use the boat has a lot to do with the size and style boat you buy.

I am currently reading the book "The Complete Whitewater Rafter" by Jeff Bennett. This has been a really good source of information for me. He goes over just about everything from what you need to start, to reading rivers, to becoming a professional guide. I suggest you get this book or one like it to help you on your way.
 

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If you have the money (or, like me, can get someone to give you a wicked good present), this Rogue trip was a blast. They call it Class III Rowing School (not as intense a "guide school") -- there were some folks there with almost no rowing experience who had a gerat time and learned a lot. And the Rogue is a classic river trip.
Class III Rowing School | Northwest Rafting Company

I bet there is some floating to be had on the N. Platte around Saratoga.
NRS probably sells more whitewater gear than anybody -- poking around their site can also teach a lot -- they do have general info (not just product description); they might carry that whitewater rafting boook suggested as well as DVDs.
 

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..down the Snake River , just outside if Yellowstone in Jackson, Wyoming, which was a class 2 when we went.
I think Class II is very debatable; I think Class III is still a good call even in August (running around 4.8K now). So you may be ready for bigger water than you think if you are looking for comparable thrills. (I am assuming you ran the standard WW section from West Table to Sheep Gulch.)
 

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It was glossed over in earlier posts but in my opinion finding friends/acquaintances that float and joining them, even if it be via a rented boat, will teach you a ton. I think in the long run a guide school, rowing school, outfitted overnighter would be great, but for now you need to confirm that you love this sport, for better or worse, before shelling out thousands in classes, lessons and gear. It may not be easy in your case (depending on the Cheyenne boating scene) but some networking will likely take you a long ways.

Now that your into it, you'll find more folks that float too, just start talking boating and asking questions. Once you find folks do some research, make sure they're not taking you somewhere you don't belong and be as prepared as you can be, that may include borrowing stuff from your new/old/rekindled friendships. I know we have plenty of extra gear and have introduced several dozed friends into rafting and we always enjoy corrupting newbies :p.

Anyways, get back out there on another day trip, ask around and find folks that are willing to take you along. Learning how to row or guide a paddle boat this next time out is not important, just get out and have fun err - safe fun and network!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yeah, we went with Sands Whitewater. It was a blast, but they said the river was flowing about 4.5k. There were a couple of descent rapids, and then Big Kahuna which was the worst, but wasn't terrible. Most of the bad rapids are little to no concern right now because the river was down so much.

Thank you all for the advice. We are looking at taking a possible trip to Idaho Springs and hitting some rapids down there in a week or two on a guided trip down a Class 3. Any raft purchase will definitely come later on, I am just trying to get a feel for the sport. I will look into the classes and training you all recommended, and we plan to get some experience under our belts with mild to medium guided trips before we try and do anything on our own or too wild. With that said, we would love to get a couple of more runs in before the season ends this year, and we would love to meet up with some people and get to know the community. We plan to make a trip up to Jackson and hit the Snake River again next year in May when the river is up.
 

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How to raft good

Almost everyone I boat with in the Southwest got their start by going on a trip and then seeking out and meeting local boaters. Buy a cheap bucket boat and frame/oars for $1000, meet some people on this website. Go on a trip or two and get mentored by private boaters, and if it does not suit you, sell the rig for what you paid for it or close to it. You cannot call yourself a dirt-bag boater if you take a couple of whitewater courses. Time on the river matters the most. Spend money on the trips.
 

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A guide course is good, and I'll echo the advice to not invest in a boat until you have some miles in.
Find people with experience to float with and pick their brains.
It helps if you bring lots of beer and offer to do the groover and camp chores.
Be friendly, helpful and respectful.

You can always become a self important ass later.

Oh, and avoid Kayakers. They will corrupt you.;):p
 
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