|Rafting the New River in West Virginia|
If you’re an experienced paddler, late spring is a great time to go whitewater rafting as the spring thaw in the mountains feeds the streams with thundering whitewater. Children need to be at least 14 years of age to raft in spring.
Although my husband and I rafted before and we took the children on smaller rafting trips, everyone wanted to try rafting the big water. So our summer camp trip revolved around rafting the New River in West Virginia. We camped in the New River Gorge area and took a full day guided river trip with the Appalachian Wildwater outfitters on the Lower New River. In the summer, the water isn’t as high and children can raft at 12, our youngest the twins’ age.
Rafters are required to wear helmets and life vests to take on the New River. And the rafting guides came along to check and tighten these vests once we put them on.
I didn’t know that as my husband and I checked our children’s vests to be sure they were properly closed. Then a lady came by and yanked on everyone’s vest straps. My eyes started bulging as did the children’s.
“Is breathing important?” I squeaked to the woman.
“Not nearly as much as being able to find the body in the river,” she quipped.
I rushed over to my husband. “I’ve changed my mind.”
“You’re getting hysterical,” he whispered as our guide Seth demonstrated the paddle commands and moves.
“It’s because the blood’s cut off to my brain,” I croaked.
I glanced at the children. Seth’s authoritative voice held their attention as they copied his motions. If they can function in tight vests, so can I.
All seven of us went on one 14 foot raft—plus our guide, who sat at the back of the raft. We put in at Thurmond and planned to come out right before the New River Gorge Bridge.
After the first rapid—Surprise, yes the rapids are named—the adrenaline started pumping. Roller coaster waves! Water in your face waves! Hold on to your tube—and paddle—waves! I kept shouting to the children to tuck their sneakers under the huge outer tube they sat on to paddle.
Seth was correct. Did we ever doubt him? We had calm periods on the water between the rapid series.