Outdoor Afro Goes White Water Rafting!

It was important that our RV adventure last week include activities to help us explore the surrounding, beautiful Sierra Nevada region. And with the American River in sight of our campground, whitewater rafting made perfect sense.

According to a poll taken in 2010, of the top five activities Outdoor Afros would try if they had the support and resources is white water rafting. For our RV adventure, we were fortunate to arrange a rafting trip on the American River in the Sierra Nevada region of California courtesy of American Whitewater Expeditions.

Getting Started
Within our first RV experience, it was also the first time we had ever rode rapids on a raft. As a family, we have kayaked, sailed, motored, and of course swam in lakes, oceans, and backyard pools, but this was a different proposition. I decided for this first time experience to go with my son Seth (14), (his first time too), with the younger children and my nephew remained at camp to enjoy the pool for the afternoon.
Along the American River there are several companies that provide a range of whitewater experiences. You can choose half or full day tours, and each typically come with meals, and experienced instructors who educate and enliven the experience.
American Whitewater Expeditions (AWE) has been around for over 30 years as a premier whitewater rafting company on the American River. While researching them, I learned they have a reputation of quality rafting adventures that are exciting, relaxing, and most importantly, lots of fun! Jon, the owner, suggested we take the a full-day tour of the Lower Fork of the river, as a trip more suited for beginners, but with lots of whitewater action.

Cool Rapids!
While we ran late Saturday morning (due to taking a wrong turn on the road), Jon called me on my cell phone to reassure me that they would not leave without us – whew! Once we arrived, we were in the hands of friendly guides who gave us a safety talk, outfitted us with helmets, personal floatation devices, and a paddle. And an important safety tip we received, should we end up in the water, was to keep our feet up out of the water to ward off getting our legs caught up in rocks below the surface.

Rough Water!
It also was not necessary to bring our own camera, since professional photographers position themselves along the route and at key rapids to catch the most dramatic moments. We were grateful for Sierra Nevada Photos operated by Julie and Andrew Boucher who did an awesome job capturing the trip and provided us with a CD of dozens of hi-res images, some of which are featured here:

My son and I opted to ride with AWE guide Kaitlyn, who was a bubble of fun, another couple from San Jose, CA, and their two older teen boys. At first, my own son was a little reserved, and a bit hesitant to jump in the water at the optional swimming times or play balancing games, too concerned about his shoes getting wet.
Our trip covered about 15 miles, which lasted five hours, with breaks to jump in the water for a cool swim, and a terrific spread for lunch along the river. Kaitlyn was the source of much laughter with her funny jokes and river trivia. The views of the canyon were simply stunning on this summer day, and we saw interesting birds and other wildlife, such as a rarely spotted river otter!
As the ride went on, I noticed my son cared less about his shoes, and became more courageous! And at the climax of the trip, at a rapid named Hospital Bar, he volunteered to “ride the bull” and take on the rapid while sitting atop the front of the raft. We all wailed with laughter as he predictably got soaked, and fell back into the raft with his feet sticking straight up!

Ride the Bull
Feet Up!
So for me, this trip not only was about trying a new outdoor experience, but a chance to meaningfully connect with my teenage son, with whom there are fewer activities these days we can mutually enjoy, while preserving his sense of “cool”. The trip ended with a feeling of exhilaration, and cool drinks in the canyon, from where we were transported back to base camp by bus.
Would we do it again? Oh yes! American Whitewater Expeditions provided an exceedingly competent, fun, and accommodating experience for all.    AWE provides raft trips on the three forks of the American, South, Middle & North Forks, Class III -V, and I also discovered they have a fabulous family-friendly campsite on the river that provides camping the night prior, lunch on the river, and use of a thick foam sleeping pad. Two and  four person cabin tents are available to rent, some with cots, tents if you need one, and great food you can purchase as a weekend rafting package!
So if you plan to visit the area, I highly suggest connecting with AWE to help you have an awesome rafting experience, but also to help create memories with your family to last a lifetime like I did with my son Seth.
Outdoor Afro thanks American Whitewater Expeditions and Sierra Nevada Photos, and their staff for sponsoring such a perfect day!

Next up: African American Connections to the Sierra Nevada!