Whitewater for the kids!

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It’s something we’ve been dreaming of since before the kids were born.  Floating down a river, together, for days on end.  Having nothing to do but enjoy the scenery, adventure, and each other’s company.   Well a few weeks ago this dream became a reality.  We did our first multi-day (okay it was really only 2 days) rafting trip, and brought the kids along.  Lucky for us, my parents couldn’t resist the opportunity to join us too!

Let me start by saying  that for me, rafting has always been a family affair.  My family started rafting when I was 10 with a junky old raft that someone gave us that we stored in a trash can (trust me, that was where it really should have stayed).  My Dad and a few of his friends decided that they were going to learn how to be good rafters and everyone took all of their kids along and it was an absolute BLAST!  We all grew up rafting together and then in college, I got to spend three summers working on the river as a guide.  I knew that this was something that I wanted to keep doing forever!  Mason took his first float trip at just over a year old, and Chloe took hers around 9 months.  They LOVE it!

Although we fell like we had a pretty good handle on things, looming over us were the unexpected ‘what if’s’.  What if it rains the whole time?  What if our sleeping bags don’t stay dry?  What if the kids start going stir crazy on the boat? (Oh wait, we had a solution for that – just throw them in the water for instant happiness).  Well I’m pleased to report that things went just about as perfectly as possible (which is often not the case).

After doing LOTS of research, we narrowed down our list to floating the Colorado from Loma to Westwater.  The only problem was that this spring, the Colorado River drainage had some massive runoff and the water was REALLY high.  High water = a little scary with kids.  So that plan was nixed and we decided to run the Gunnison River from Delta to Whitewater.  A nice scenic river where we could enjoy beautiful canyons, quick moving water, and a few easy class II rapids to keep the kids entertained.  This will be perfect for kids kayaks!

One thing that I really loved about this trip is that space was limited.  I mean, we had 6 people and only a 14 foot raft, so things were going to be tight.  Because of this, we brought only the essentials.  Tent, sleeping gear, food, 2 changes of clothes (one for when the kids were covered in mud and the other in case the weather turned bad), and diapers.  We fit all of our gear in 2 dry bags and threw all the sleeping bags and pads in Andrew’s monster pack.  It actually felt great to simplify what we bring, since car camping can usually mean that lots of extra ‘stuff’ ends up coming with us.

We got to spend lots of time rowing, and chatting – two of my favorite things.  We camped at Dominguez canyon beach which was absolutely beautiful.  The kids and Andrew got to play around on “parrot rock” and we got to spend lots of time playing in the sand, checking out the nearby waterfalls, and chasing lizards.  The next morning we took a great little hike up the canyon to see some more falls.  After a few more hours of paddling, we were at our takeout.

Here’s what we did to make this trip kid friendly:

– Took 1 small bag of toys for the kids.  I made sure that they all floated, and most of them were just bath toys.
– Stocked up on juice boxes so that the kids would drink like crazy and stay hydrated on our dessert trips
– Brought Grandma and Grandpa…enough said!
– Bought dollar store squirt guns for the kids to have water fights with.
– Borrowed a ducky (inflatable kayak) from some friends.  The kids quickly learned that this was the place to be and spent a good majority of the trip in here.
– Kept it short.  Since this was a first for everyone, we decided to stick to just overnight.

Although we did do some special things to accommodate the kids, they were so easy.

Mason spent most of his time collecting sticks drifting in the water.  He pretended that they were sharks and Crocodiles for HOURS.  Chloe took 1 toy out of our toy bag, and the bag remained untouched the rest of the trip.  She prefered to help row the boat.  The squirt guns were a huge hit and they had lots of great water fights with Grandpa.  They reminded me of how happy kids are with the simple things in life!

As my Dad said as we got approached the take-out “thus begins a lifetime of multi-day river trips”.  We had a blast and are already dreaming about our next trip!


About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

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