Rivers differ in such categories as gradient, shape, rockiness, hazards, thrills, temperature, seasonal changes and scenery. Outfitters vary somewhat less, but are not completely equal in emphasis on safety, experience and overall excursion quality. Most responsible river guides belong to at least one professional organization in order to keep up with current safety procedures and equipment. The U.S. Forest and Park Services and the Bureau of Land Management, which are the usual source of permits for rivers, can be contacted for information about outfitters. Company websites may answer a number of your questions.
How’s your safety record? What kind of safety training do the guides have and what safety equipment do they carry? Do you require that clients can swim?
Choosing a river
Which river should I select? Your own experience, swimming skills, physical health, stamina, age and desire for adventure should figure into the choice. You may want to find out advantages or hazards of a particular river.
When to go
When should I raft this river? Some rivers can be run year-round, but others have short seasons due to danger at flood levels or lack of volume at low water. Rivers below dams are often only suitable to run after water releases. May, June and early July are traditionally the best rafting months.
Rafts and propulsion
How big are your rafts and how many passengers will they hold? Are they self-bailing rafts? Will we paddle or just ride?
Attire and personal items
What should I wear for rafting, and will there be a place to leave dry clothes? What other items are appropriate–cameras, snacks, drinks, sunglasses, binoculars?
Do you supply or rent wetsuits, booties, life jackets or helmets, and at what cost?
Do you provide meals on and/or off the river and can you deal with vegetarian or other special dietary requests?
What makes your trips special? Do you provide any unique facilities or activities?.
What is the total cost of the trip, and do you cancel and reschedule excursions for inclement weather or insufficient number people booked for a trip?
How long will the excursion take?