If you're trying your first high-adventure trip as a family, safety should be your number one concern. Children will find the experience of river rafting fun, memorable, and rewarding, but it still means that parents need to be prepared for all safety problems. Here are some tips to keep your family safe on the river.
1. Rent or buy all needed safety equipment.
The river is unpredictable and each family member will need a helmet and life jacket. If you're brining an infant, speak with your river guide about the right safety procedures to make sure baby is always in a safe place during the trip.
2. Provide for kids' needs.
Rafting trips can take a few days, and each day kids will feel pretty tired with all the excitement. They'll need a place to crash as you're navigating the river. Consider renting a boat that has a dry "crash pad" for kids to lay down and rest when they need to.
3. Choose the right route.
While the excitement of navigating intense rapids is great fun for adults, it can be hard for kids and trying for parents who are trying to keep everyone safe. Start out with a calm river route with brief stretches of excitement. Kids can gain an appreciation for the water and for nature, while parents navigate the river easily. Kids can even try their hand at manning the oars in quiet stretches.
4. Bring extra adults.
You might feel fine taking on the water with your spouse, but unless you have a couple teenaged kids to help out, you should have one adult for every child under ten. This is partially for safety but also partially because adults need to disperse food and supplies, help with bathroom needs, and simply be there to address fears and unforeseen problems.
5. Teach basic rafting safety before the trip.
Have a few family education evenings where you teach your kids basic safety. Parts of the river will have more rapids and there is always the chance of unpredictable weather. Teach kids how to sit safely in the boat and how to grasp for handholds and hold on during rocky stretches.
Leaning out the boat or jumping in to swim is unsafe. However, you can also teach kids what to do if they are thrown overboard, including screaming loudly for help and resting in calm eddy of the river until rescue.