All of us are soaked from head to toe. The kids are gleeful, giggling at my wife’s attempt to smooth her wet hair during our whitewater rafting vacation in the Canadian Rockies. She was laughing along with us. What a fantastic experience. We’re halfway through our trip down the Kananaskis River in Alberta and having the time of our lives.
Adventures Begin in Calgary
With two teenagers at home, we wanted one more unforgettable family vacation before the girls left for university. We checked our family’s adventure bucket list and decided that Calgary would be the perfect start for a trip into the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The city is a great launch pad for adventures, with the mountains less than an hour away.
After a few days exploring Calgary’s many shopping and dining options and taking in a summer festival, we booked a rafting trip in nearby Kananaskis Country – a vast mountain playground just east of Banff National Park in the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. The Kananaskis River offers stellar views of mountain scenery and a chance to see wildlife such as deer, elk and bears, not to mention great whitewater.
Whitewater Rafting 101
Rivers are whitewater rated by class and range from easy to extreme. Classifications denote characteristics such as waves and obstacles. Class 1 is leisurely while class 6 is high octane and for seriously experienced rafters.
My wife teased the girls by suggesting a leisurely float trip that emphasizes laying back and enjoying a lazy ride. After a family discussion, we booked the level 2-3 adventure, so we could mix whitewater thrills with the occasional slower pace.
Canadian Rockies Rafting Season
For the seven of us aboard the raft it was all about the warm sunshine, cool rapids, epic scenery and ear-to-ear grins. Conquering in-your-face rapids sure does get the adrenaline pumping – in the best way possible. I could tell from all the smiling faces that this stretch of rapids provided just the right amount of excitement.
Late springtime in the Canadian Rockies delivers the most thrilling whitewater adventures, as the snowmelt boosts water levels and makes the rivers run high and fast. The rafting season lasts until the end of September, providing different levels of adventures, including slower float trips throughout the summer as water levels begin to drop.
Whitewater Rafting Gear
What you’re required to bring on your trip will vary according to the rafting operator and trip. Usually you’ll be provided with all the safety gear – including wetsuit, lifejacket, helmet, paddling jacket, wet shoes and gloves. All we had to bring for our half-day rafting experience with Canadian Rockies Rafting was a bathing suit, towel, sunscreen and warm fleece – just in case the weather cooled.
If you’re going on a float rather than a whitewater trip, you can often just wear whatever’s comfortable, along with the provided life jacket. Whatever you bring, don’t forget your camera and your smile!