Four years ago I took my kids on their first ever white water rafting experience on the Snake River in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We were halfway through a road trip exploring the Pacific Northwest that took us as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia and as far east as Jackson Hole.
We paddled through class 3 and 4 rapids and had a fantastic afternoon. The kids were hooked. Since then, I’ve made it a point to take them rafting on a different river every summer. In 2015 we did the Spokane River in Washington and in 2016 we did the Clark Fork in Montana (pictured above). This summer we returned to the Snake River, but this time we rode through Hells Canyon, the dividing line between Idaho and Oregon.
What made this trip different from the others, aside from the fact that we didn’t get paddles (more on that later), was the fact that instead of getting in a bus to return to our start point, we climbed onto a jet boat and rode the rapids again, back to Hells Canyon Dam.
I’m happy to say that white water rafting has been a positive experience every time: no company has ever turned me away. And I’ve rafted with at least five companies in four different states. This latest trip was through Hells Canyon Adventures. They are the only ones to offer a one-day trip through Hells Canyon and the only ones to combine rafting with jet boating. My son and our guide lifted me on and off the raft, though not too long ago they did have a lift at the launch site. According to our guide, they are working on getting it replaced to make the on/off process better, especially for those who don’t want to be carried.
This was the first rafting trip I’ve ever taken where I didn’t get to paddle. Only one of the rafts on this trip was designated for paddlers and I found out that I would have had to specify on my reservation that I wanted to paddle. I didn’t mind just being along for the ride this time, but in the future, regardless of what company I book through, I’ll make sure to ask about that.
Accessibility: 4 out of 5. The actual rafting is no problem as long as you have sufficient upper body strength. However, you would need assistance getting on and off the raft and the jet boat. When booking your trip, be sure to let them know about your injury and whether or not you’ll have someone along who can help you.
Know Before You Go: Having paddles can actually help you stay in the boat. Sticking your paddle into the white water when you hit a rapid creates inertia. Using your body as a counterweight helps you stay with the movement of the raft instead of fighting it. I slid into the bottom of the raft every time we hit a big rapid on this trip because I didn’t have a paddle to steady me. I won’t raft without one again!