Middle Fork River Expeditions

Five Must-Ask Questions When Selecting an Outfitter for a Family Whitewater Rafting Trip

By Ciao Bambino!

A whitewater rafting trip with kids is one of the best active family vacations around. These trips are available around the world, so you may not have to travel far to join one. A bigger issue is deciding which company to trust for the experience. I’m using the word “trust” intentionally here. Whitewater rafting trips involve real risk and selecting the right outfitter is serious business.

Add kids to the mix and the decision is more complicated. Not all outfitters are created equal when it comes to ensuring that a trip is kid-friendly. We had a phenomenal experience rafting down the Main Fork of the Salmon River with Middle Fork River Expeditions. Our fun, safety, and comfort was 100% due to the quality of our outfitter.

I asked James Ellsworth, the owner of Middle Fork River Expeditions and a longtime rafting expert, for his suggestions about the must-ask questions when families choose a whitewater river outfitter. Here’s what he had to say:

1. How long have you been in business and what is the average of the years your guides have been guiding?
You want to go with an outfitter who has a track record and moreover, a company that uses experienced guides. Middle Fork River Expeditions’ guide average is 15 years.

2. Do you have a kid-friendly menu?
There are no other options outside the food that is provided on a rafting trip so it’s important to have a selection of adult and kid-friendly fare. Too gourmet doesn’t work and too simple means the parents will be bored with the food.

3. Do your trips cater to families?
Catering to families means having kid-friendly supplies and a game bag for camp, as well as having guides who understand that kids need special attention. A mix of younger guides is great for teenagers and guides should be excited to organize everything from freeze tag, musical chairs, i.e. fun for kids during the time off the river.

4. Do you provide everything for the trip, including all camping gear?
Middle Fork River Expeditions has extremely nice equipment from the rafts, to the tents, to the sleeping bags. They provide everything which makes it easy for families to participate without a long list of additional expenses. If you do plan to use sleeping bags provided by an outfitter, make sure they are washed after every trip.

5. Are you’re your guides swiftwater rescue certified?
Adequately trained guides are a must. Visit Wilderness Rescue International for more information.

Get More Tips Around Family Adventure Vacations
The Smart Parents Guide to Family Adventure Vacations is an excellent source for information on how and why to take an adventure trip with kids. Some of these trips are active and some just involve heading to remote destinations. Either way, our guide provides a great foundation to get the planning process started.

Ciao Bambino! is a leading family travel brand and global family travel planning website featuring curated family-friendly hotel reviews and a comprehensive family travel blog offering tips, news, and narratives related to traveling with kids of all ages.

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Idaho snowpack promises awesome whitewater in 2014

BOISE, Idaho — (March 6, 2014) — Idaho mountain snowpack levels and anticipated streamflows in the popular Salmon, Snake, Lochsa and Payette river basins are ranging from 90-120 percent of normal, which should provide for a stellar, fun-filled whitewater river season in the summer of 2014, officials said Thursday.

“Our bookings are very strong this year and we feel lucky to have such a fabulous snowpack, especially compared to much of the West,” said Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene. “Folks planning to raft in Idaho this season shouldn’t wait much longer before signing up.”

Idaho’s snowpack levels are much stronger than levels well below 50 percent in California and Nevada, Grubb notes.

Idaho is known nationally as the “whitewater state” with more than 3,000 miles of thrilling whitewater rapids, the most of any state in the lower 48. Thousands will take week-long wilderness river vacations on the Salmon River, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River or Hells Canyon of the Snake with Idaho outfitters. Whitewater enthusiasts also will book day trips on the Payette, Snake, Salmon, Lochsa, St. Joe and Moyie rivers with Idaho outfitters. Great water conditions will benefit jet boat trips as well on the Salmon River and in Hells Canyon. Now is a great time to reserve your spot for a unique and unforgettable vacation, outfitters say.

A wet month in February featuring precipitation levels exceeding 200 percent of normal in the Boise and Snake river basins and 150 percent of normal in the Salmon and Payette River Basin is what boosted snowpack levels to what they are now, experts say.

“It’s all good news! It just keeps getting better every day,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We need the cool temperatures to continue in the mountains and normal precipitation levels to continue in the spring to maintain these forecasts.”

Main Salmon and Payette River outfitters are excited about the snowpack levels, too. “The Main Salmon River has an amazing snow pack this year so rafting season is going to be great: big water, beautiful sandy beaches and exciting rapids,” said Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions. “The word is out. We have several full trips already and are looking forward to a fantastic summer. Now is the time to plan your family vacation.”

“The water outlook on the Payette River system looks solid at over 92 percent of normal,” said Kenneth Long of Cascade Raft and Kayak. “There is still plenty of time to collect a bit more precipitation, which will put the icing on the cake. Both rafting and kayaking look great for the entire summer, with super whitewater levels on the South Fork through Labor Day and on the Main Payette through mid-September.”

Deep snowpacks in the Upper Snake Basin should provide enough flows for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide boatable flows through the white-knuckle Murtaugh section near Twin Falls this spring. That’s always a bonus for whitewater boaters.

The only downside this year are below-normal snowpacks in the Owyhee and Bruneau river basins, which are 52 and 68 percent of normal right now. Those rivers may not get high enough for rafting this year, but should be doable by kayak.

For more information about booking an Idaho whitewater river trip, go to www.idahorivers.com or call 800-801-5146.

 
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