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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I have an opportunity to run the MFS in late July. I'm a competent rafter/boater with a lot of years and miles of experience under my belt (used to work as a guide and have been a kayaker and open-boater for 20+ years), but I've never run the MFS before. Am I being foolish to think that it would be a good idea to bring my 5 year old daughter on this river in mid-late July? Our put-in date is July 19.

She's been down easy runs like Ruby/Horsethief and the Daily Run (Moab) on our cataraft and she gets excited when we are hitting waves. My wife would also be on the boat holding onto our daughter as we go through any rapids, and hopefully they could portage anything that we didn't feel comfortable taking our daughter through.

From everything that I've read, the MFS at lower flows is a kid-friendly river, but I wanted to hear what you have to say if you have knowledge/experience with this river. I am assuming that by mid-late July that the flows will have dropped, but I don't know for sure. I'd appreciate any advice that you might be able to offer up. Thanks in advance!
 

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No experience with the little ones but what I see at lower water for rafters is a lot of bumping/spinning/making it work. Have seen a couple spouses ejected not because of a flip or water but because of a sudden stop and end up with good bruises. Also pack for super cold to super hot as Idaho weather is awesome.

Levels are also hard to predict, but if you are confident give it a go - best trip and I wish I started on it when I was 5.
 

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MFS

Can your 5 year old swim? I'm thinking your wife will have a tough time enjoying the river wrangling the little one. If it's low water and you get stuck who will hold the kid while you both drag and pull? Easy to pop an oar when its low maybe a helmut for the little one ? Its hard to hold on to the boat and a kid at the same time. I like to hit up the run at least once prior to taking the kids. I have taken my daughter who is 6 years old on many trips Deso, San Juan , Loma , Pumphouse , Yampa but I had run them all before and when I broke that rule on the Ark (3 rocks) it was more stress than necessary not knowing 1st hand where I was on the river and locations of scout and recovery eddies, rapids, and camps/takeouts. I've been on the MFS 8 times and I was still reluctant to take her last Sept(I ending up canceling for business reasons). The MFS is a special spot and sharing it with your kids is a wonderful thing but I would suggest you bring in grandma for a visit and go with your wife. Cheers
 

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4 year old on the MFS

It should not be a problem in late July if you are a competent boater. The water should be at about the easiest and safest level at that time of year. I took my four year old granddaughter last year and have been on several trips with 4 year olds. The kids do fine and have a great time, especially if there are other kids on the trip to hang with. The problem is usually the nervous moms.
 

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I would not take my 5 year old on it. He was 2 weeks shy of turning 5 when I did the MFS last year, and there's no way I would have taken him then and wouldn't this year. I'm not saying he wouldn't have a great time, because he would have loved it. There are simply too many what-ifs on a 100-mile wilderness float for a young'un that small, mostly them being able to self-rescue if they got ejected from the boat.

For what it's worth, another guy in our party brought his 2 boys (12 and 10) but left his 6 y.o. daughter because he didn't think she was ready for the trip.
 

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I did not and would not take my 5 year old daughter on a medium flow trip. Low flow is maybe. I waited until she was 8 and low flow. I had about 10 mfs trips under my belt including 3 solo trips. In retrospect She could have gone at 7 alone, possibly 6 with mom along. Mom was opposed and I was OK not having to worry about a mini me along all the time.

By the time she was old enough I knew exactly where she might potentially walk, where the risk was and the lines for all the major rapids. She was prepared to walk some distance every day.

But I will probably take my 4-5 year old son with mom on low flow. He is a little more durable and would not be ruined by a swim. He swims once a week most of the year and has no fear.

Would I do it with kids my first time on that river? Probably not.+


So basically you are borderline. July can still have solid flows. Maybe wait and see how it looks a month out, and use the regression curves to estimate flow.

2.5' and below is pretty benign if lightly loaded.


Edit: Also she actually only floated 3 days and flew out at Indian Creek last year.

Edit dos: After I swapped mom and girlie out at indian creek last year I brought in My dad and another big guy + another 175qt cooler. I had completely styled the top but after adding 800lbs and only subtracting 150 I struggled on the bottom, which is opposite from what is normal, at least for me. No way in the world I would take my daughter on the top loaded heavy.

Edit tres: I also traded off my usual cat for a raft. having a whole well for the passenger was key vs a hatch to dangle off of.
 

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I think there are some good and different POV's here. We take little kids on all sorts of trips but not the middle fork--low water presents its own set of challenges and boats will still flip (in addition to getting stuck and pinning). There are sections that are not particularly pool-drop so people need to be able to take care of themselves to a certain degree if they end up out of the boat. I'd probably take a 9-10 year old with good swimming skills.
 

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Just saw that you're from Fort Collins... so this is a bit easier. I've found whitewater on the Poudre reminds of MFS in a lot of ways (similar difficulty, volume, continuous nature etc.) so you can probably answer your own question. If you'd take your 5 year old down the Rustic sections and Stephens down (including Pineview) at the lowest of low possible raft-able flows (where you're bouncing off rocks, going through narrow channels, and getting stuck pretty regularly), thats fairly analogous to what you'll see on the top 30 miles of the Middle Fork in July.

The flow picks up significantly in the second half of MFS so that will be more similar to mid-flow Poudre through those sections. Still a lot of rocks to avoid, but also some decent sized holes to watch out for and some key moves to make to not get in trouble.

I'm sure someone could argue the differences -- they certainly aren't a perfect match -- but its a pretty good litmus test to gauge your reactions to something you're probably familiar with. I'd say the MFS is generally just a bit easier albeit bigger than the Poudre through those III-IV sections I mentioned, but its also deep wilderness vs roadside.
 

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Great thread and feedback. I'm in a similar situation although my daughter is 7. I've run the MFS at low flows and agree that it's similar to the Poudre - especially the Rustic sections.

For me the decision comes down to the group make-up. It makes a huge difference if I know I have a solid group of rafters and kayakers who can help keep an eye out for us, run safety (boat or shore) at the bottom of the harder or more technical rapids, etc.
 

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Just saw that you're from Fort Collins... so this is a bit easier. I've found whitewater on the Poudre reminds of MFS in a lot of ways (similar difficulty, volume, continuous nature etc.) so you can probably answer your own question. If you'd take your 5 year old down the Rustic sections and Stephens down (including Pineview) at the lowest of low possible raft-able flows (where you're bouncing off rocks, going through narrow channels, and getting stuck pretty regularly), thats fairly analogous to what you'll see on the top 30 miles of the Middle Fork in July.

The flow picks up significantly in the second half of MFS so that will be more similar to mid-flow Poudre through those sections. Still a lot of rocks to avoid, but also some decent sized holes to watch out for and some key moves to make to not get in trouble.

I'm sure someone could argue the differences -- they certainly aren't a perfect match -- but its a pretty good litmus test to gauge your reactions to something you're probably familiar with. I'd say the MFS is generally just a bit easier albeit bigger than the Poudre through those III-IV sections I mentioned, but its also deep wilderness vs roadside.
Excellent comparison. I've boated the Poudre a lot over the years. While some parts are similar, others are drastically different. When you get to the lower section of the float and the flow has doubled or more from all the tribs, then I have a much harder time making the comparison to the Poudre. Then again, there are many places where the Poudre is much more continuous and difficult.

In general, though, you do make a good comparison. The only caveat I would make is that doing the entire Poudre with your 5 y.o., you would keep the kid in the boat the large part of the time with no options for her and her mom to walk rapids.
 

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Our put-in date is July 19.

I am assuming that by mid-late July that the flows will have dropped, but I don't know for sure.
The MFS has been between 2.0 and 2.5 ft on the date you launch in all but extreme flow years.

I guess my difference of opinion with some of the other replies about taking a 5 year old stems from what your self assessment of being a "competent boater" means. At those flows I believe a competent boater should be able to read water well enough and maneuver the boat sufficiently and with confidence so that they are not careening off of rocks and getting stuck all of the time. Can't do it = Don't take the kid. So float the Poudre (which I know nothing about), be honest and decide for yourself.

And when you are on the MFS, remember to run your tubes a little soft so that you "slime" over any rocks that you do not miss. I ran the MFS at 2.7 ft with a guy from Colorado a few years ago. He was stuck at least 20 times the first day. No one else was having problems. I could not convince him to let some air out of his tubes. It also didn't help that he had only floated desert SW rivers and could not read water very well.
 

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For me the decision comes down to the group make-up. It makes a huge difference if I know I have a solid group of rafters and kayakers who can help keep an eye out for us, run safety (boat or shore) at the bottom of the harder or more technical rapids, etc.
This is key. I pm'ed with the OP with some input already, but for anyone boating with kids, the abilities and willingness of other trip participants to run super safety and lead difficult sections can be the difference in a good time or ruining your kid for life on boating. Or worse.
 

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I concur with some of the other posts. It is your first time rowing that stretch and even a mature 5 yr old is a little too young to fend for themselves when things get sticky. MF should be between 2-3' which is an ok flow for a newby to the MF but will be a little bumpy on top. Commercials don't allow kids below 10 yrs old. I am taking my 10 yr old for the first time this year(didn't get a permit last year) and I have over 40 MF trips under my belt. It is all about the what ifs.
 

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The MF was my step-up from class III trips and I first ran it at 2.5 feet. Great level for an intermediate rafter the first time. However, I was pretty well exhausted the first two days from the constant concentration that was required. I was lucky enough to be following some very experienced rafters, who kept a close eye on me. I would not take a 5 year old on your first MF trip. We started the "river kid" in our group on the Main Salmon at 4 years old, but didn't take her on the MF until she was about 11-12. If you are trying to split your attention between the river and the kid, something will suffer. Just my 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
GREAT FEEDBACK! THANK YOU!!!

There have been a lot of good posts here and you all have really helped me to make my decision. The comparisons with the Poudre solidified what I already thought about the MF - thanks for chiming in on this. I was already feeling pretty reluctant to take her on a river that I have not yet been on, knowing that there is higher potential for issues to occur. It seems pretty clear to me now that she's a bit too young to run the MF and that we'll continue to stick to the easier rivers for now.

Thanks again to all who posted and who sent PM's! I greatly appreciate it!
 
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