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River Rafting in Moab with Kids
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River Rafting in Moab with Kids

Rafting the Colorado River

 

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

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Moab may be a mecca for mountain bikers but it is also a magnet for river rafters. And the rapids aren't the only attraction! Here, the Colorado and Green rivers cut an arresting path through sandstone forming dramatic canyons red, gold and black. Towering spires, broad sand beaches and vertical walls round out the scenery. But that's not all! This rugged and remote corner of Utah harbors tales of times gone by. Rock Art, more than 700 years old, adorns boulders and stone. Native American Indian ruins tell of a life long ago. Hideouts, such as Outlaw Cave, speak to Butch Cassidy and the Wild West. Abandoned homesteads impart the harsh reality of frontier life. In Moab, rafting with kids is as much an adventure as just plain fun.
Getting Started
 
The Green and Colorado rivers vary from mild to wild and Moab rafting trips come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you paddle for a half-day or more than a week, hire rafting equipment or partake in an organized river trip be sure that the rafting adventure you select is commensurate with the age and interest of the kids. Take note, the minimum age and type of craft - jet boats, paddleboats or inflatable kayaks - utilized on commercials trips are more often than not dictated by river flow and difficulty.
The Right Trip
 
Cataract Canyon, below the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers, is a world-class stretch of white water. Here, the Colorado River's power and speed produces 14 miles of rapids, some of which are Class V. Whitewater rafting trips in Westwater Canyon traverse a dozen of the top whitewater rapids in the western United States. Little Dolores, Funnel Falls, Skull Rapid, and Sock-it-to-Me are but four. Desolation Canyon may not hold the allure of Cataract or Westwater but it is no less exciting and no less stunning. The rapids, Class I to III in peak season, make this section of the Green River an ideal choice for families partaking in their first multi-day whitewater rafting trip. The dramatic landforms, created by millions of years of erosion, will capture the attention of even the most jaded kids. The slow float in Castle Valley from Fish Towers to takeout beach is ideal for novice paddlers. Whether you partake in a half or full-day trip the kids will learn to raft yet have ample opportunity to swim.
Plotting your Route
 
Rafting on the Colorado and Green rivers is ideal from early May to late September. Rivers flow, dependent on rainfall and snowmelt, peaks, on average, between mid-May and late June. Yet the water level isn't the only thing you will need to consider when planning a self-guided rafting trip. A permit is required for all Green and Colorado River rafting trips through Cataract Canyon, Westwater Canyon and Desolation Canyon as well as all points in between. If you are planning a self-guided rafting trip in an area managed by more than one public entity request an interagency permit. It reduces the bureaucracy. Unless you plan to paddle both down and upstream, book your shuttle service first. Several of the take-out points are a long way from anywhere and companies offering river services are oftentimes fully booked weeks if not months in advance. In addition, consider the number of hours you intend to paddle each day as well as the amount of time you would like to spend exploring, hiking side canyons for example, when determining the length of any rafting trip.
Travel Gear
 
If you are partaking on a fully outfitted river trip you won't need much in the way of specialized rafting gear but there are a few things all families should consider. Don't wear cotton on the river it weighs more wet than dry and will quickly leaving you feeling chilled. Quick drying clothing - shorts, pants and tops - is ideal. Don't forget to think about your feet. Sturdy, water resistant shoes or sandals (no flip-flops or crocs) are a necessity even if you plan to spend all of their time in the boat.
Packing Tips
 
There is little reprieve from the sun on Colorado and Green River rafting trips. Pack enough waterproof sunblock and sunscreen lip balm for repeated applications. Pack sunglasses with a cord and hats with a draw string, it is easier than you think to loose both to the water and the wind. Don't forget your camera, bathing suit, water resistant sandals or sport shoes, quick drying shorts, pants and tops, and insect repellent as well as a sport bottle for each member of your crew. Pack your personal items including your camera in resealable waterproof bags. Families embarking on a self-guided adventure will not want to forget guidebooks, maps and first aid kit.
Health & Safety
 
River rafting is a great way to introduce the kids to the wilderness. Yet it is important not to exaggerate. Select a rafting adventure that matches the age and ability of the kids and pay particular attention to the mercury. From May to September the temperature on the river can exceed 100° F (38°C). Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas before you start paddling and repeat the applications throughout the day. And while it may be tempting to remove t-shirts and bear bikini tops the desert sun is unforgiving. Encourage the kids to drink regularly (children dehydrate quicker than adults) and start out your day with a good hearty breakfast.
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