What's it really like to Raft?
By Jessica Power
I got to go rafting for the first time at Lawson Adventure Park today.
I will cherish that experience for the rest of my life.
The last time I “rafted” was at Disney’s Grizzly River Run -which wasn’t rafting so much as sitting in a giant wheel with other people and getting splashed by mechanical geysers and rapids. It was fun, but nothing like real rafting.
As a beginner, I went on the scenic beginner trip. As far as feeling safe goes -you know that there is a very real risk of injury, but you feel as safe as you feel trust in the guide leading the way. Pat has been a guide rafting at the park for years and has seen just about everything. The sense that I got from him was that he would rather drown than let anyone in the raft fall out or get hurt.
After I and the other rafters put on the wet-suits, helmet, life jacket, and water-proof booties the park provided, we got in the van and headed down to the river with boat in tow. There was a line there with around 40 other people from another company getting into that entry point to the river. Pat, our guide, told us about some of the history of the area -including gold mining -which was nice.
It’s important that guides have a passion for what they’re doing and a deep caring for who their looking after.
I worry sometimes when I see other rafting companies take 40 people go out single file, raft after raft, in a highly commercialized way down the river. The rafts seem crowded and it kind of seems rushed. Which is why I wasn’t that surprised when 30 minutes into our trip we passed by one of those groups stranded along the shoreline because someone had fallen out.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what logo is on which boat -the only thing that matters is that people are safe on the water. When Pat came by the stranded boat he checked to make sure everyone was o. Later, after we had our raft out of the water and on the shore, he waited behind to check again until the other boat had come safely to shore.
There is a great sense of community and respect between raft guides for that reason.
I love the approach Greg, the CEO who used to specialize in doing rafting trips, takes when it comes to rafting, “I would rather tell a guest ‘No, I don’t feel safe letting you go out on the river today.’ and not get paid then put someone’s life at risk.” They keep a very close eye on water levels and will hold back trips -especially since rocks are too close when the water is too low and rafters become swimmers when the waters are too high.
I also loved that the driver of the van that would pick us and the raft up at the very end popped into 3 designated check points on the river so he could ensure everything was still going right with our trip. There was an emergency medical kit in the van and they had one in the boat.
Our the trip down the river was incredible. The other rafters were a father and 9 year old son visiting from Florida. They were a funny duo and kept joking that they were trying to get each other wet on purpose.
The views of the surrounding area were amazing. If I could gift my eyes to others so they could see the views I saw from the trip I would.
You first head through the backyard of the historic Idaho Springs and then the river branches out into greater wilderness. There is this amazing pattern of paddling and getting splashed and the water being fast-paced and choppy to moments of ease where you can really take-in the surroundings.
The only thing I would have changed was bringing a towl to help dry off at the end. 🙂
For a nature-lover that kind of excursion reinvigorates you and excites you to life. It’s an unforgettable experience.