10 Tips for White Water Rafting Beginners

Large group of rafters smiling

The Colorado Adventure Center offers a variety of trips that are perfect for beginner whitewater rafting participants. Whitewater rafting can be an intimidating activity to get your feet wet. Here are a few tips to help white water rafting for beginners.

group of happy rafters

1. Cooperate with your Guide – The Colorado Adventure Center’s team of whitewater guides are some of the most experienced and well trained on Clear Creek. Listen and follow their paddle commands as you navigate the river. Paddle when they give a paddle command! Don’t paddle unless they give a paddle command! Your river guide is very familiar with the river. Following your guide’s instructions will help to ensure a smooth and memorable beginner rafting experience.

2. Listen & Understand the Safety Orientation Talk – Before every whitewater rafting adventure, Colorado Adventure Center guests will go through a safety orientation talk. The safety orientation goes over many of the risks associated with whitewater rafting. Not only do we address some of the risks that could be encountered on the river but how to react in the scenarios. Although this pre-trip safety talk can seem intimidating, it is crucial that all guests rafting are prepared for the risks of whitewater rafting.

3. Paddle Together – Paddle like a Viking war ship not a drunken spider! Your river guide will call out different paddle commands as your crew navigates the rapids. It is much more effective and efficient to paddle together as a team. The paddlers at the front of the boat will be designated the “paddle captains”. As the guide yells paddle commands, the paddle captains will initiate the stroke in unison. Everyone seated behind the paddle captains will follow their stroke. Paddling skills will be practiced on land before putting on the river.

Bachelor group ready to raft

4. Brace Yourself – If you are a beginner whitewater paddler be sure to find good positioning in the raft. The guests will be seated around the perimeter of the raft. Some positions may have a specific foothold and others will brace themselves using the interior thwarts. By tucking your feet under the thwarts or into the footholds you will allow for a more powerful paddle stroke. Finding a balance between your seat on the perimeter, tucking your feet, and good paddling form can help keep you in the boat through rapid sections.

5. Hands on the T-Grip – Always keep one hand on the T-grip at the end of your paddle. One of the most common injuries in whitewater rafting is caused by your fellow paddler. While going through rapid sections some guests remove their hand from their T-grip to brace themselves. This leaves a hard-plastic object being thrust about the raft in close proximity to other paddlers. Do yourself and your rafting companions a favor. Keep your hand on the T-grip.

6. Gear Up – The rivers in Colorado are generally from snow melt and stay pretty chilly. The water temperature on Clear Creek rarely gets over 40 degrees! A wet suit is included on all our Clear Creek whitewater trips. It is not required on our beginner whitewater section but strongly recommended, especially early season. It is required on all intermediate and advanced rafting trips to wear a wet suit. Additional gear is available for rent. Neoprene river booties are always a good call, no matter what section of whitewater you plan to go on. The self-bailing rafts used at our Idaho Springs Base Camp will have your feet in contact with the water the entire time. The wet suits are sleeveless so a Splash Top will provide additional warmth to your upper body. If your hands get cold easily, neoprene gloves are strongly recommended. Even if you are a little toasty while gearing up for your trip, wait until that first wave hits. You will be thankful for the extra insulation.

7. Don’t Wear Cotton – Do not wear any cotton material while rafting! Cotton is a negative insulator. This means once the cotton layer gets wet, it is going to stay wet and cold. If you put a cotton layer underneath the wetsuit it will not allow the neoprene material to keep you warm. Choose a dry-fit or synthetic material that will dry easily.

Adults rafting in Colorado

8. Hydrate – It is important for any physical activity that you are properly hydrated. If you are visiting Colorado from a lower elevation, hydration is even more important. It may be hard to notice as you are getting constantly splashed through rapid sections, but it is very easy to get dehydrated at higher elevations. This goes for the kiddos too! Encourage everyone in your party to drink twice as much H2O while visiting higher elevations.

9. Sun Protection – Nothing is worse than a bad sunburn on vacation! We encourage guests utilize high SPF sunblock and UV blocking layers. The UV rays at higher elevation can be significantly more harsh than lower elevations. Save yourself and your family members from vacation altering sunburn, use sun protection!

10. Unplug – We strongly recommend everyone leave their cell phones locked in the car. Live in the moment and take in the unbeatable Colorado scenery. White water rafting is an activity that requires your full attention. There will be little, if any, time while on your rafting trip to use your phone. Everything in the raft and on your person is very likely to get wet. Avoid donating getting water damage or donating your phone to the creek by leaving it in your car. The Colorado Adventure Center works with professional photographers that are stationed along the river. Let your personal paparazzi get the action shots and enjoy the ride.

The Colorado Adventure Center team is dedicated to making your beginner whitewater rafting trip an unforgettable positive experience. Do you have more questions about your beginner whitewater rafting trip? Call 877-ZIP-RAFT to speak with one of our friendly Reservation Agents.

When Is the Best Time to Go White Water Rafting in Colorado?

Group rafting

The best time of year to go white water rafting in Colorado is generally May through August.

groups of people in rafts on shoreline

The Colorado Adventure Center offers some of the best whitewater rafting for extreme outdoor enthusiasts and timid first-timers alike all summer long! The summer months in Colorado is when the runoff from the snowpack melting brings water levels up and warm weather settles in. No matter what time of summer you choose to go rafting in Colorado, there are a variety of difficulty levels to meet your adventure needs. Water levels in Colorado’s rivers will vary depending on the amount of snowfall from the previous winter and weather systems in the Summer.

Deciding the best time to go rafting in Colorado depends on your party’s white water rafting experience and the level of adrenaline you are looking for. The Colorado Adventure Center offers Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek May through August. If you are experienced paddlers and looking for bigger rapids, plan a trip around mid-June when the water is generally peaking. This time of year is when the water levels will be at their highest. Are you new to whitewater rafting or have young children in your party? No worries! The beginner section of Clear Creek runs throughout the summer months.

Visiting Colorado outside of whitewater rafting season? No problem! The Colorado Adventure Center offers the Clear Creek High Tower Zip Line and Colorado Sky Trek March through November.

Need more information to help plan your whitewater rafting adventure? Call 877-ZIP-RAFT today to speak with one of our knowledgeable and friendly Adventure Specialists.

Can I Go Rafting If I Can’t Swim?

Family rafting on the Clear Creek River

Yes! You can go whitewater rafting without strong swimming abilities.

rafting boats on clear creek river

While some swimming skills are a plus for any water activity, the Colorado Adventure Center offers a variety of rafting trips and aerial activities for non-swimmers. The beginner rafting section on Clear Creek is a perfect stretch of scenic water for first timers and those that aren’t strong swimmers.

Guests with limited swimming abilities should understand that the Colorado Adventure Center takes every precaution to mitigate the risks of whitewater rafting. Each guest will be fitted with a Type-V Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (life jacket) to be worn while on the river at all times. The personal flotation device is designed to float the guest on his/her back with his/her head out of the water. All guests are instructed on the proper use of this personal flotation device in the safety orientation talk before departure. All rafting trips are led by our team of experienced and well-trained river guides.

Decent swimming abilities are much more important on our intermediate and advanced Clear Creek rafting trips. It is crucial that guests be able to self-rescue if the situation arose. This could mean swimming to shore, swimming back to the boat, or cooperating with the guide to catch a throw bag. These rescue strategies are covered in detail during our safety orientation talk. Intermediate and Advanced whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek are not recommended for poor swimmers.

Want to stay high and dry? We got your covered. If paddling through the whitewater rapids on Clear Creek isn’t your cup of tea; try soaring over them at 40 mph! The Idaho Springs Base Camp is home to the Clear Creek High Tower Zip Line and the Colorado Sky Trek. Our aerial activities are the perfect adventure for guests that aren’t keen on getting wet.

The Colorado Adventure Center emphasizes a challenge by choice philosophy. We encourage everyone planning a trip to understand their group’s experience and limitations. Need more information about our whitewater rafting trips? Call 877-ZIP-RAFT today and one of our Adventure Specialists will help you pick the best activity for your group.

Is There an Age Limit for White Water Rafting?

Rafting on the Clear Creek River

Yes, there is an age limit for whitewater rafting!

two groups of people rafting down river

Recommended age limits on white water rafting trips in Colorado are dependent on the level of difficulty and the current water level. Safety and risk management is our number one priority at the Colorado Adventure Center. Recommended age limits are subject to change during high water conditions. Each of our whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek has specific age limits and requirements. It is important to inform our reservation team of the ages of guests in your party and to complete the digital liability release form in advance. This way our reservation team can reach out to your party to reschedule or switch adventures if you have already booked your trip and high-water conditions prevent anyone in your party from participating.

The age limit for the Clear Creek Beginner Whitewater Rafting trip is 5 years old. Please be aware that the age limit on this rafting trip can fluctuate depending on water levels. There is generally a period of a few weeks in June when the snowmelt runoff is peaking that our management team will recommend increasing the minimum age requirement.

The age limit for the Clear Creek Intermediate whitewater rafting trip is 14 years old. The level of whitewater rapids jumps significantly for this trip. Guests must be able to cooperate with their river guide to navigate a series of Class II, Class III, and Class IV rapids. Be advised that age limits for the Clear Creek Intermediate trip can increase due to high water conditions.

The age limit for the Clear Creek Advanced Whitewater Trip is 16 years old. Previous whitewater rafting experience, strong swimming abilities, and decent physical fitness are strongly recommended for this trip. This steep, fast-moving section of whitewater is famous for consecutive Class III, Class IV, and Class V rapids.

All guests are required to sign a liability release form to participate in whitewater rafting. Minors must have a liability release form signed by a parent or guardian.

Age Limits for Whitewater Rafting

Clear Creek Beginner Whitewater Rafting Trip – 5 Years Old Age Limit

Clear Creek Intermediate Whitewater Rafting Trip – 14 Years Old Age Limit

Clear Creek Advanced Whitewater Rafting Trip – 16 Years Old Age Limit

Call 877-ZIP-RAFT today to speak with a knowledgeable member of our reservation team.