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Be Safe, Have Fun: Eight Questions to Ask Your White Water Rafting Company

white water rafting in ColoradoEditor’s note: Last year, I rafted the Kicking Horse River in the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia. The water levels were at record highs and it was a thrilling experience. However, a week later, on the same stretch of river with the same rafting company, a woman drowned.

It’s again rafting season. So when I saw that Colorado’s The Adventure Company, a white water rafting outfitter that’s been leading trips since 1987, offered these tips for choosing the best and safest white water rafting company, we asked if they’d share their advice with readers and they generously agreed. Their comments have been edited and adapted for RFT.

Spring brings thoughts of sunny summer days and, for many, vacations spent exploring the mountains and rivers. Whitewater rafting is one of the most popular activities for vacationers, but choosing the right river outfitter can be a challenge

“Our priority is taking care of our guests the same way we’d take care of our own families,” explained Mark Hammer, who was a river guide for 16 years before purchasing The Adventure Company in 2003. “What makes an outfitter successful? I believe it’s making decisions based on what’s best for our customers, money aside, so that they have the best experience possible. That brings them back year after year.”

White water fafting family affair Colorado

If you choose the right rafting company, white water rafting can be fun–and safe–for the whole family.

Ask any company you’re considering these eight questions that will help you plan a fun, safe and memorable whitewater rafting vacation:

1. Can you tell me about your guides? Experienced guides make a world of difference. It takes years of practice to master the skill of guiding commercial rafts in whitewater. A professional guide who is comfortable on the river and confident in his or her actions puts guests at ease so that they can relax and enjoy the trip.

2. How long have you been in business? Longevity and business success come from satisfied customers. Travel review websites such as TripAdvisor provide firsthand reports and helpful advice.

3. How do you choose and maintain your equipment? Clean, well-kept rafts, life jackets, helmets and paddles make a rafting excursion safer and more enjoyable. An adventure company should choose equipment based on performance and safety to ensure it responds to the toughest whitewater and it should sanitize its neoprene wetsuits after every use.

Slapshing water in the raft

Rafting can get serious quickly so it’s good to have experienced guides.

4. What other steps do you take to keep us safe and comfortable? Details such as the condition of the shuttle vehicles, how often rafts are replaced and whether there are enough life jackets, helmets, and wetsuit gear so that everyone gets the right size even on a busy day can provide reassurance.

5. What’s for lunch? The answer can vary from prepackaged bologna sandwiches to gourmet fare. Knowing what’s on the menu ahead of time can help manage expectations. The best companies go the extra mile to provide guests with a satisfying and filling meal.

6. What are my options? Planning an action-packed vacation can take a lot of research. Working with an outfitter that offers lots of choices can save time and money, and help travelers plan the perfect trip for the needs and ability of the group. Look for a company with raft trips on multiple rivers and of varying length, for experience levels ranging from beginner to expert, with lodging and activity packages.

7. Is it a good value?Most rafting trips fall within a fairly close price range, depending on the region, so determining value is more about the quality of the experience than about saving a buck or two.

you can fish while white water rafting

Calmer waters allow visitors to toss a line in to catch a fish.

8. What makes your company different? All outfitters are not the same; give each one the chance to explain what makes it special. Does the company offer expert-level raft trips on Class V whitewater, full moon rafting excursions, or other trips that might fit your interests? Is the company known for its emphasis on safety and quality?

Convenience is also important. Look for a company that’s close enough to where you’re vacationing that you don’t have to spend all day driving, especially after a day of rafting. – Mark Hammer, Expert Whitewater Rafting Guide and owner of The Adventure Company

The Adventure Company is a white water rafting company located on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, has been in business since 1987 and offers 25 different rafting trips on four rivers, onsite lodging and activity packages with an emphasis on quality. — Story and photos courtesy The Adventure Company


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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.