My family went whitewater rafting for the first time last summer. I’d never done it, but it was an activity my husband did as a child with his family, so I decided to give it a try. I took one look at the wide river, the tiny raft, and my firecracker 5-year-old, and thought for sure the adventure would end in complete disaster. But instead of ending up in an emergency room, we ended up creating our favorite summer memory.
We went in July and, since we were going to be in Pennsylvania, chose Pocono Whitewater’s Family Style Rafting Trip (poconowhitewater.com), appropriate for kids 4 and up. The day began with lifejacket fittings and a brief tutorial, followed by a bus ride to the river. We had our own raft, but guides rode up and down the river, which was mostly calm but with enough ripples to keep it interesting. We got stuck on rocks a couple of times, but we followed the guide’s advice (bounce up and down in unison) and were soon back on our way. We rented water pistols and had shooting matches with other families, and we got out of the raft to swim at designated points, which the kids loved. Halfway through was a barbecue lunch.
The course, which was 8 miles and 3–4 hours, seemed frighteningly long at the beginning of the journey, but when it ended, everyone was sorry it was over.
We’re not alone. “Families love whitewater rafting because it is a fun and exciting adventure that allows the whole family to work together as a team,” says Amy Scully, a mom of two who spent 10 years as a rafting guide.
And you don’t have to leave New Jersey to do it. Companies like Delaware River Tubing (delawarerivertubing.com; 908-996-5386) in Frenchtown and campgrounds like Delaware River Family Campground (njcamping.com/Delaware; 908-475-4517) in Delaware offer family rafting trips.
Wherever you choose to raft, follow these tips for a fun and safe adventure:
Before booking a trip, find out about minimum age, water levels, life jacket policy, and guides.
Go in late June, July, or August, when the water’s warmest.
Call ahead to ask what rafting guides recommend wearing based on the day’s weather, says Scully. On your feet should be a sturdy pair of sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet or sandals with straps—no flip flops!
Bring eyeglass straps, sunscreen, a towel, and change of clothes, advises Nikki Hurley, spokesperson for Pocono Whitewater.
Ask if the company sells waterproof cameras or waterproof bags for your own camera. You’ll want to capture these memories!
Renée Sagiv Riebling is always on the lookout for family adventures.