Tips for Whitewater Rafting with Young Kids on the Arkansas River

If you’re taking a family whitewater rafting trip, be sure to include these tips for whitewater rafting into your trip!

Have you been dying to go whitewater rafting but are waiting for your kids to be old enough?

There’s an awesome trip you can take that your younger kids will find adventuresome while you enjoy the beauty of the Arkansas River.

I’ll admit it — I’ve never gone whitewater rafting before. And when I was finally ready to take the plunge… I had kids. <sigh> What’s a mom to do?

Turns out there’s a tame entry-level trip you can take on the Arkansas that will fit all of the members of your family.

As guests of Wilderness Aware, a long-established rafting company based out of Buena Vista, Co., we were able to experience a day we won’t forget! This post contains affiliate links.

Tips for Whitewater Rafting with Kids (Plus our Arkansas River, Colorado Adventure) | Mommy Evolution

Family-Friendly Whitewater Rafting on the Arkansas River

After a lot of research on my part (I’m a mom… I’m supposed to sweat this stuff!), we found that the Lower Browns Canyon Half Day trip was perfect for my family.

I wasn’t so concerned if my 9 year old was ready, but I was worried about my 6 year old, who is little for his age.

Turns out the Lower Browns Canyon is a Class I/II trip.

It’s pretty mild and was actually referred to as a “float” when I booked the trip.

The kids don’t have to be big enough to paddle and manage the boat because the water is easy enough for the guide to manage the entire trip on their own.

For our outing, even my dad joined in on the fun! We counted down the days until we got on the river.

Wilderness Aware Prep
We’re all ready for the outing! Helmets? Check! Life preservers? Check! Looking cool and casual? Check!

Tips for Whitewater Rafting with the Family

Feed the Kids

Seriously. Prepare a big breakfast because you’re going to be out for multiple hours, and we all know how kids love to have food meltdowns at the worst time.

Wear the Right Clothing

Don’t wear cotton clothes — even for the more mild trips — unless you are prepared to be cold.

Even in the summer, the Arkansas River is cold thanks to the snow melting. Wear quick-drying (aka workout) clothes that will dry quickly while you’re wearing them.

Also, wear shoes that are designed to get wet. Personally, we’re a family that lives in our Keens.

We rented the water jackets for the kids from Wilderness Aware.

While they didn’t necessarily need them, I was glad they had them.

My youngest is particularly finicky about getting wet/cold and the jackets did the trick.

He was happy to get splashed along the route but stayed dry. (Note: If you’re doing the other routes with older kids, highly consider the jackets!)

Be sure to bring your sunglasses.

And consider bringing a baseball hat.

That Colorado sun can be fierce.

I was so happy that I could wear my cap under the helmet to help manage the sun in my eyes.

Family Rafting on the Arkansas River in Colorado

Bring Your gopro

We totally dropped the ball on this one (slapping palm against forehead).

In our craziness of getting packed for Colorado, my husband left his beloved GoPro behind.

Trust me, that won’t be happening again!

We missed a ridiculous amount of photo opportunities on the river as well as mountain view snapshots.

Don’t forget the water

No. I’m not talking about the river water.

Don’t forget your water bottles.

It’s also an easy item to overlook.

But even if you do, Wilderness Aware sells some terrific water bottles that are reasonably priced.

We grabbed a couple as mementos of our outing, and they get carted everywhere.

Our Day with Wilderness Aware

Beautiful Views on the Arkansas River

Wilderness Aware is one of the more established rafting groups in the Buena Vista and Salida region.

It was started by owner Joe in 1976, and now I understand one of his sons is old enough to be a guide with the group as well.

Our guide, Bret, was fabulous. He was fun, connected with the kids and was a wealth of data about the region.

I felt extremely comfortable and relaxed with him as our guide.

It turns out that Bret (who is from the plains of Kansas) got hooked into rafting when his family would visit the region.

And can you guess who his family would raft with? Wilderness Aware!

How cool is that? And I think it says a lot about the company.

There are two trips for the Lower Browns Canyon outing and we grabbed the morning one.

We headed off early to get suited up (see what I recommend you bring above). Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing… we certainly didn’t.

The guides will help you get fitted and answer any questions.

Before you head off on the buses, the entire group has to go through a safety course to make sure everyone is prepared.

Yes, even the kids need to listen… safety pertains to everyone!

Then everyone climbed onto our bus (much like a school bus) and headed off for the launch spot on the river, which took about 20 minutes.

Because we had 5 people in our party, we had our own raft. However, we shared a bus with another family who happily chatted as we got ready.

How did the family reaction to rafting?

Not my kid... because we were super lame and forgot our GoPro... but the smiles are just the same!
Not my kid… because we were super lame and forgot our GoPro… but the smiles are just the same!

You never know how kids are going to react in new situations… let alone putting them on a raft for a couple of hours.

I can happily report that the kids on both rafts were smiling the entire time.

Along the trip, Bret encouraged my boys to sit up front on their knees and get a fun ride.

Before I knew it, both boys clamored up front with my dad and hubby.

Talk about a boys’ outing! The kids loved it and kept asking our guide to his every single wave possible.

We even had our guide doing 360s, 720s and 1080s with the raft.

In fact, at the end of the day, both my dad and I said that was our favorite part.

And you can’t skip mentioning the view! You can see the Collegiate Peaks along the way as well as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s quite lovely.

After our day, the family is already talking about our next rafting trip!

Next year, the boys will definitely be ready for a step up. We’re going to try out the Lower Browns Canyon trip. Even my dad is pumped for it!

To book your own family trip (or for a bigger adventure), visit Wilderness Aware or call them at 1-800-462-7238.

Have you taken your family whitewater rafting?


  1. It’s always an a adventure to go for whitewater rafting in Arkansas River Colorado, and when you are specially going with your families & friends it’s always an a exciting. This tips are very helpful for those parents who go with their kids for river rafting trips.

  2. River rafting is always exciting, specially when you are going in Arkansas River Colorado with your kids & families. Kids safety is always our first priority whenever we go & for river rafting this are some valuable tips which are provided. Thanks for sharing this, i will follow this tips for sure.

  3. It was a quite awesome experience, the service i got was remarkable and i liked all over experience.
    i would definitely recommend my colleagues to go and enjoy the service and rafting it is actually a wow experience.

  4. I really like the advice to wear the right clothing. It’s amazing how miserable people can get if they’re not prepared for the activity they’re going to be doing, and wearing the right clothing seems like the best way to be prepared for rafting. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Rafting with your family sounds like so much fun! It’s definitely important to know the ropes (like wearing quick dry clothing) so everyone has an enjoyable experience. Thanks for sharing!

  6. It really can be quite helpful to take the article’s advice and make sure that you and your kids are wearing the right clothing. After all, if you’re going to go whitewater rafting then you are going to get wet. Since that is the case you’ll want to make sure that you’re wearing clothes that will still be comfortable even when wet.

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