As the temperatures begin to rise and summer heats up, it’s time to cool off with a trip down the river. Rafting is a great way to break up your summer, and whitewater rafting, in particular, can keep you cool while also adding a splash of excitement into your regular routine. But if you’ve never planned your own whitewater rafting trip, it can feel a little overwhelming at first. 

But don’t panic. The expert river outfitters at Idaho’s favorite adventure company, Killgore Adventures, have put together this quick-hitting guide to planning your first whitewater trip.

Pick a Destination

There are incredible whitewater rafting opportunities all over the world. The United States, in particular, has some truly spectacular river systems that make for some amazing trips. When looking for a destination, think about more than just the river. Consider which states you want to travel to, and what other recreational opportunities you’ll have nearby. For instance, here in Idaho, we’re lucky to be near amazing national parks and forests, as well as great cultural sites.

Pick the Right Kind of Trip

This might sound a little vague, after all, which trip is ever “right” for you? Well, this question isn’t as mystic as it might sound. Indeed, finding the right trip is easy when you gauge a few key factors:

  • Ability: Probably the biggest factor to consider when planning your trip, If you’ve only seen whitewater rafting on YouTube, you probably don’t have the skills necessary to do a multi-day trip through turbulent waters on your own. You might consider working with a whitewater rafting guide instead. But if you’ve been on a few different trips, you might be ready for something more.
  • Time: How many days do you have to commit to your trip? Remember to build in time on either side of your trip to travel to and from the river.
  • Gear: Do you have your own gear and rafts? Or will you need to rent it?
  • Group: Take a look at the people traveling with you. Is it a group of seasoned rafters, ready to tackle the biggest wave trains on the Salmon river? Or is it your in-laws who just want to try out this “rafting thing?” Gauge their enthusiasm and factor that into your planning.

Start Your Research

In the era of the internet, it’s easier than ever to do all of your research online. You should look for info on river volume, regulations of group sizes and usage, as well as permitting and passes. If you’re still stumped, visit a local river outfitter and ask them. They’ll have all of the information you could need and then some.

Time of Year

While the most hardcore of river runners might disagree, rafting isn’t a year-round activity. Realistically, you can raft in Idaho during the late spring through early fall seasons. AS you dip toward winter, the river gets to be too cold to comfortably travel down. Make sure you choose the right time of year.

  • Late Spring: The river is flush with spring runoff from the snow. This means big waves and chilly waters.
  • Summer: The river is at its highest, making the summer ideal for those looking for big rapids and challenging waters. Even those with less experience can enjoy this time of year provided they travel with a competent river guide.
  • Early Fall: Sunny days, warm temps, and relaxed waters make this a great time of year to bring the whole family out on the water. 

Build a Meal Plan

Rafting is hard work, and you’ll burn more calories than you realize. One of the luxuries of river travel is that you can bring coolers full of food with you on the raft. Make sure you pack calorie-dense and nutritious foods with you for major meals like breakfast and dinner, and energizing snacks to enjoy at mid-day. This is especially important if you’re on a multi-day trip.

Make sure you pack plenty of fuel for your camp stove too.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

The right gear can make or break any river adventure. We’ve already covered what you should and shouldn’t bring with you on your river outings, but in case you missed those blogs, here’s a quick recap for you: 

  • Ditch the cotton layers, cell phones, and plastic-wrapped food. These things can get wet, damaged, or pollute the river.
  • Bring dry bags, synthetic layers, and waterproof cameras. These things will make your next trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

As always, make sure you pack out everything you brought with you on your trip, especially your trash. Also, consider how you’re going to dispose of your waste. You may need to bring a portable toilet with you and pack all of your solid waste out. Check the regulations for the particular river you’re floating down.

Enjoy Your Whitewater Adventure in Idaho

Once your trip is planned, the only thing left to do is enjoy it! Want to explore the Salmon and Snake Rivers of Hells Canyon, but don’t want the hassle of planning it all out? Let us do it for you! Killgore Adventures runs hundreds of whitewater rafting trips in Idaho every year, offering half- and full-day trips, as well as multi-day whitewater excursions. Find out more about our trips and then book yours today!