Gold Country rafting in El Dorado County | Photo: Kirsten Alana

Whitewater Rafting Essentials You Need to Know

While whitewater rafting is known for its thrills and adrenaline rushes, it’s also a fantastic way to strengthen friendships, get an excellent upper body workout, enjoy the outdoors, and get in touch with nature.

And it’s not always challenging, despite what you may think. As long as you select a trip that suits your ability level and are prepared with all the necessary knowledge, almost everyone can have fun whitewater rafting on the American River. Check out our advice on preparing for your first whitewater experience:

What to Wear  

You might be thinking about what to carry because whitewater rafting is an unusual activity, and there isn’t much room on the raft.

  • Bathing Suit: You’ll spend the entire day on river rapids, so you might get wet. Wear swimwear that you won’t mind wearing for several hours. Bonus if it’s quick to dry.
  • Sandals: Remember that rafting entails more than just being on the river; you’ll also be walking down the bank and getting on and off the boat. Avoid wearing flip-flops because they’re easy to lose in the river and don’t offer adequate stability for walking on rocky shores.
  • Sunscreen: Sunscreen is a must when going on a whitewater rafting adventure. Purchase sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 50 that is water-resistant enough to withstand a few hours on a whitewater raft.
  • Polarized sunglasses: Polarized sunglasses have specific filters that block out intense reflected light, which will lessen glare and increase visibility. Bring a retaining strap with you to keep from losing your glasses.

Book Early

It’s best to make your reservations as early as possible because spots on rafting trips frequently fill up, especially if you want a tour with the duration and level of difficulty of your choice. Luckily, there are plenty of whitewater operators in El Dorado County!

What Class of Rapids to Pick

Rafting expeditions are classified according to their degree of difficulty, from Class I to Class V. The bulk of rafting excursions with guides are either Class II, III, or IV. Keep your comfort level in mind as you choose which journey to take. Here’s what to expect with each class:

  • Class I: These rapids have small waves and few obstacles and are ideal for complete novices.
  • Class II: Also suitable for beginners; they have large, clear channels and only occasionally need maneuvering.
  • Class III: Dodging these rapids’ erratic, medium-sized waves can be challenging. To guide the raft in tight spaces, rafters must make complex maneuvers.
  • Class IV: Strong and violent rapids, but they are still largely predictable. When traveling through choppy waves, rafters must be able to control the raft precisely.
  • Class V: These rapids are long, powerful, and blocked, and they are only suitable for professionals. Together with steep chutes, rafters may also come across enormous holes, unavoidable waves, and other hazards.

Listen to Your Guide

Your whitewater rafting guide will give a safety presentation before you embark on your adventure to go over how to handle situations that may arise.

Whenever they mention high siding, pay close attention. It’s a command your guide might yell to prevent your raft from tipping over. It’s crucial to maintain composure despite how frightening this may feel. The likelihood of this happening is low, but if it does, you’ll be glad you paid attention to your guide’s safety advice.

Enjoy the Best White Water Rafting Experience in America

Experience El Dorado County’s whitewater rafting. With possibilities ranging from day tours to overnight expeditions, it’s thrilling for tourists of all ages. Book a tour today.

Cover photo credit: Kristin Alana

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Whitewater Rafting Essentials You Need to Know
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September 30, 2023
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