“…when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things.” So says Huckleberry Finn about his raft trip down the Mississippi with the runaway slave Jim. There is probably no better way to get the world into perspective than by floating down a river. If you are taking a guided trip you will get all the information you need, but what if you are striking out on your own?
Know Your River
Before you go anywhere near the water, you need to research the river. Choose a river that has a good reputation for float trips, get a map, and read up all you can about it. Find out where the ‘exciting’ stretches are. Mark out the campsites and the places of special interest.
Then decide your route and your stopping points. Always assume that it will take longer to reach your daily destination than you expect.
Know the regulations governing your chosen river. If you are travelling through a National Park Service area, for instance, there are strict rules governing any sources of pollution (including noise).
Know Your Party
Assess the capability of the group. Everyone on the boat should be able to swim, have some idea how to behave on board, and know the basic rules in the event of a capsize. If you are taking a craft of a type that is new to you, arrange with the hirer to give you an introduction.
A float river trip is great for kids and dogs, but take a short trip first to find out if they will really enjoy it as much as you think they should!
Know Your Stuff
A float river trip is meant to be relaxing and fun! Pack for safety but also for enjoyment. Every member of the party must have a personal floatation device (PFD) and use it. You will need lots of clothes, because the temperature will vary widely during the day and night. Your clothes will get wet, so choose materials that dry easily.
The food and drink you pack will depend on how easily you can replenish it as you go along. Always make sure that you will have enough food to keep everyone happy for the day, and enough water—dehydration makes for some bad decisions. Alcohol makes for even worse decisions!
Take the stuff you need to make it your special trip. If fishing is your thing, make a checklist so you don’t forget that handy Haywire twist tool and all the other gadgets you have collected.
Know How to Relax
There can be few things as relaxing as a float trip. If it is interspersed with moments of exhilarating terror the relaxing bits can seem even more worthwhile! It will be a vacation you will look back on with affection, and may become an obsession that never lets you go.
Above image courtesy: gadling.com
Andrew Holden is a big kid at heart who loves adventure and travel, and when he can get the family involved too, even better! He writes about alternative travel for a range of blogs.
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