When I figured out our route this summer and realized we’d be driving through central Idaho, I knew I had to look into whitewater rafting because it is HUGE in Idaho. In fact, Idaho is the self-proclaimed whitewater state! MANY outfitters are running various stretches of the Salmon, Snake, and Payette Rivers, but as soon as I saw the website for The River Company, I knew they were the outfitter for us! If you’re looking for the absolute BEST trip for whitewater rafting with kids in Idaho, then look no further than The River Company.
Driving into Stanely, Idaho, from our hotel near Sun Valley, we were treated to amazing mountain views. My east coast kids repeatedly commented about how big the Sawtooth Range looks compared to our Blue Ridge Mountains back home.
The River Company prides itself on being perfect for first-timers and families with children. While the big kids have all gone whitewater rafting at the National Whitewater Center, and Christopher and Jacob tackled the Ocoee River in Tennessee a couple of years back, Ellie has never been rafting. Their website was so reassuring and honestly answered every question I had about the trip, plus offered a little extra humor. Highly recommend!! When we arrived and checked in, our guide got us set up with life jackets, and we waited for the rest of the guests to arrive.
The River Company headquarters is located in the small town of Stanley, Idaho, and check-in begins 15 minutes before your scheduled departure. Stanley is about an hour north of the Sun Valley/Ketchum area and three hours from Boise. After a 15-minute bus ride to the drop-in point and a quick safety lesson, it’s time to get out on the river.
Oh my gosh, these five were SO EXCITED to go rafting – especially Ellie! She wanted to sit in the back as close as possible to our guide, Caleb, to ensure she didn’t fall in, but she LOVED every minute of the trip!
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River transverses some of the most beautiful parts of Central Idaho.
The first set of rapids that we encountered is the class 3, Piece of Cake – a fairly standard class 3 with moderate waves and straightforward maneuvering.
There are photographers from The River Company on hand to take pictures as your raft moves through the Piece of Cake rapids – you can view and/or purchase photos when you get back to the headquarters after making your way down the river.
Our guide knew that we were looking for adventure, so I think our raft got a bit wetter than others that day. Early in the season, the rapids are more intense due to the higher water levels, and you will get wetter – but that just adds to the fun!
Piece of Cake was a great introduction to rapids for Ellie – and the whole crew.
After making it through Piece of Cake, there’s a calm stretch if you want to get in the water and float for a little bit. There is also a jumping rock where the tours pull over, and you can jump from a 10-foot rock into a section of the river that’s about 20 feet deep. Ben was the only one brave enough to jump in!
After a quick break, the river picks up again as you make your way through The Narrows, the other class 3 section of the river that you encounter on the Family Trip with Lunch.
Speaking of lunch, The River Company is the only outfitter rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River that offers a hot lunch!
And let me tell you our lunch was absolutely amazing!! We enjoyed perfectly cooked teriyaki chicken and rice, a flavorful Asian salad, pickled cucumbers, unlimited coffee, tea, and lemonade, and homemade brownies for dessert on the banks of the Salmon River. The kids were excited because they could get seconds – whitewater rafting definitely makes you work up an appetite!
After lunch it’s back into the rafts for a float down a fairly calm stretch of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Ben and Lexie both decided to hop into the river and float alongside our raft for a while. Getting them back in the raft was hilarious since neither could get themselves back in and required assistance from their big brothers + our trusty guide, Caleb.
While the class III rapids were definitely the highlight of the journey, the calmer parts allowed us to learn about the surrounding areas from our guide. We talked about everything from the rapidly dwindling Chinook salmon population to the history of the Salmon River.
Idaho Whitewater Rafting Experiences with the River Company
In addition to the Family Trip with Lunch that we enjoyed, The River Company also offers several other rafting experiences from their base in Stanely, Idaho.
- Scenic Float Trips – These 2-hour trips float through Stanley Basin, and while they have small riffles, there is no whitewater. This trip is great for all ages and is offered from May – September.
- Straight Shot – This one is basically the Family Trip with Lunch but without lunch. Like the Family Trip with Lunch, this one is great for ages 4+ and runs from late June – August.
- Class IV Rafting Adventures – Offered for a brief time in May – June, this one is for the 14+ crowd. Neoprene wetsuits, booties, jackets and helmets are all included.
We had an absolutely fantastic time rafting the Salmon with The River Company, and everyone was all smiles. As we wrapped up the end of our excursion, the kids were already asking when we can go whitewater rafting again.
WHAT TO WEAR FOR WHITEWATER RAFTING
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when going whitewater rafting, in Idaho or elsewhere, is what to wear. While I practically live in flip-flops, they are not ideal for whitewater rafting unless you’re OK losing your shoes on the trip. We opted to wear our Teva sandals which stayed snuggly on our feet but provided solid soles for walking around the slippery river banks.
It’s important to wear clothing that will protect you from the sun and will dry quickly. The boys all wore their swimsuits – board shorts and rash guards – and that was perfect. The girls wore their swimsuits with a pair of shorts over them, but since they were cotton shorts, they just got wet and stayed wet. Neither complained because it was hot outside, but they would have been chilly if it had been colder outside. Also, make sure to pack (and use!) sunscreen since the sun will reflect off the water and you can end up burning quicker than normal.
Have you been whitewater rafting before?? The kids are begging to go again; do you have any river recommendations??
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