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How safe is white water rafting?

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Byram, Mississippi
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6 posts
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How safe is white water rafting?

My family of 5 (2 adults and 3 children ages 4, 7, and 13) is going to GBurg this weekend and we really want to go white water rafting. My husband and children can not swim. I've heard that you don't have to know how to swim to go on a float/rafting trip on the lower Pigeon class I/II rapids, but I would never forgive myself if we went rafting and something bad happended. Advice please? Thanks in advance for your help!

East Tennessee
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1. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

Based upon personal experience, consider making an inquiry with any rafting company regarding the river flow. We never permitted our children on level I/II rivers until at least age four. ( I believe that most rivers in Tn have an age requirement so you may wish to check.) IF the river flow is up, do not go. IF the river flow is down or average, then consider it, pending the age requirements. Also consider your comfort level on a river.

I would suggest that you only take a large raft for your family rafting trip. I would not take the children on a two man funyak or kayak. Keep the kids in the middle of the boat (except the older one who can paddle away) and on most level I/II rivers, the biggest issue in a full size boat will be dragging bottom or getting hung up. Also ask about the actual rapids and how to ride them in your approach to the rapids.

Finally, I do not know this river from a rafting perspective and would hope that you seek advice from those that have run this river. Our river travels in TN have been on other rivers including the wonderful Hiwassee River. With those things said, our family has spent many a day floating East Tn rivers as well as riding the higher rated rapids as the kids got older.

Welcome to East Tennessee.

Byram, Mississippi
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6 posts
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2. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

Thank you so much for the great tips and wonderful advice! I have been looking forward to white water rafting since we first planned our trip several months ago. I have become anxious as our trip started approaching about the "what ifs". I'm not sure how comfortable I am letting the little ones get on the float because they can't swim. How likely is a float to turn over on class I/II rapids? Can anyone give me details about their experience on the Pigeon River? Best company to raft with? I've read the reviews and Rafting in the Smokies and Smoky Mtn Outdoors sound good, but my overall concern is safety.

Cinn, OH
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3. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

I think everyone on the float wears a life preserver, the little one is the one I would be more concerned about, depending on the water lever especially. My sons had the problem, but when my one son and his friend went by themselves, the friend did fall out, but he had on a life preserver, and he can swim, so had no problem, The guide will tell you what to do if you fall out, but the little one would be the one I am concerned about.

Rockford, Illinois
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4. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

I would err on the side of caution and do something else if you are feeling nervous. It seems like you might not be able to enjoy the rafting if you are worried the whole time. Our son is 7 years old and I even feel nervous about having him go rafting, so we're not going to do that this summer.

Highland, Illinois
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15 reviews
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5. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

A phone call to any of the rafting companies can provide you with some answers. Considering the age of your children, they would probably not be allowed on the Big Pigeon River which has class III and IV rapids. I would ask about the Litlle Pigeon River which is much calmer. The rafting companies require life vests(helmets on the Big Pigeon) and give safety instructions prior to leaving the outpost.

Savannah, Ga
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for Cherokee, Tybee Island
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6. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

If you are going on the lower Pigeon it is a really easy float trip. The upper pigeon is the white water section. I took my son on this trip many years ago when he was about 6. He loved it. It was an easy trip. Also keep in mind that the rafting companies have very good lifejackets that are designed for white water rafting and you are REQUIRED to wear them. If you do go for a swim you will float.

Relax and have fun

Highland, Illinois
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181 posts
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7. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

John 144 thank you for helping me on the Pigeon River. I mistakenly mentioned the Big and Little Pigeon Rivers when It is really the upper and lower segments of the Pigeon river.

Chicago
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8. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

We've gone with our kids from the time our youngest was 7 and I wouldn't hesitate to go again. I'm assuming you're using an outfitter and going in a group, not on your own. Everyone is required to wear the appropriate safety gear and you will travel in groups.

Last time we went our friends son was only 5 and they thought the Lower River trip was boring. The guide service told them that they could have easily done the upper and I agreed after being on the upper. These companies do this for a living. They are very safe.

East Tennessee
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630 posts
156 reviews
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9. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

Kay from MS, just a side note to be clear that while outfitters do offer a guide on level I/II trips, having a guide is NOT common for level I/II rapid rivers. My experiences are we have never had a guide on level I/II rivers.

If you consider a river with level III/IV rapids, then you clearly need a guide.

That said, I do not think state law or the outfitter's insurance carriers permit an outfitter to take children as young as your children on a higher level rapid river.

East Tennessee
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630 posts
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10. Re: How safe is white water rafting?

At the risk of continuing any confusion that may be caused by this thread and my last post, the point in post 9 is to be sure and request a guide, (if you elect to have one), for the level I/II rivers as outfitters will not commonly reserve a guide for a rafting trip on this level.

Hope that this helps.

Welcome to East Tennessee.