How To Raft Like A Pro (Even Though You’re A Beginner)

Here's secret: we do a lot of rafting around the New River Gorge Bridge. Not shocked?  Okay, okay... it's not a secret.  This is the whitewater rafting capitol of the universe.  Well, America.

Bridge Day in West Virginia

What I'm trying to establish is the fact that there's a lot of know how here on the New River.  And this very post is all about how to act like you know what you're doing on a white water rafting trip, even if you don't.

Cool idea, huh?  Thing is, it's not really the expense of a whitewater trip that's important; it's your time. Vacation time is more precious than just about anything, so it's better to be prepared, right?  Just follow these simple steps:

1.  Know your reservationist.  Call her (almost always a "her") several times.  Ask a ton of questions, everything from what should you wear to how long will you be gone.  Ask to talk to a guide.  Ask to talk to the owner.  If she gives you any grief about it, book your trip with another company.

2.  Request a guide.  Companies are a little hesitant to do this over the phone if you don't know specifically the name of the guide you want.  But you can ask for a list of, say, the five guides with the most experience.  Experienced guides give better rides.  If you haven't requested a guide before your trip, you should try to ride in the Trip Leader's raft, usually the most experienced guide on the trip.

3.  Listen up.  Sit toward the front of the bus on your way to the river so you can hear the safety speech.  Pay attention.  Rafting is fun, but only if you're prepared for anything to happen.  We can go ahead and be honest and say that, if you fall out in a rapid, you won't remember much of the safety talk, but who knows?  The important parts might come racing back to you right when you need them.

4.  Choose the right section.  Here's the golden rule to a rafting vacation:  Whoever has the most fun wins.  Not "whoever does the most dangerous thing in the world".  Some sections are for kids, some aren't.  Some water levels are good for the hard rapids, some aren't.  Be honest about how adventurous you are when you make your reservation, and they'll steer you right.

Bridge Day is one of the most popular days to go rafting in the universe.  Well, America.  You can check out all the action right from the water, which might be the best view of Bridge Day that anyone not wearing a harness or a parachute will ever get.

The big bridge is on the Gorge section, or as the rafters call it, the Lower New.  It's pretty spectacular to see from a raft.  Book a raft trip (and use the techniques above) and see it for yourself.