When we think of Alberta, we think of the Canadian Rockies, pristine lakes and rivers, pine forests and abundant wildlife. While white water rafting the Kananaskis River our family got an adrenalin rush and got to enjoy the iconic Canadian wilderness. We paddled hard, we got really wet, we splashed other boats, we laughed a lot and in the process created memories that we will have forever. Our trip allowed us a backcountry experience as a family, without any expertise or equipment needed.
Family Friendly Rafting
Chinook Rafting offers trips for children ages 5 and above and the whole family loved the thrill of the Class II and Class III rapids. The Kananaskis River is fed from the mountains and glaciers of the area and the water is very cold. Even though it was a sweltering summer day, we were geared up with wetsuits, booties, and splash jackets, which were definitely appreciated once on the river. Our guide put the kids up front, which is the safest part of the raft. He called them his “wave breakers” and they took their role quite seriously. The front is, of course, the place you get the wettest as you ride the rapids down the river. Our kids love adventure activities and from the constant smiles plastered on their faces, there was no question they loved the experience. During the gentler rapids, they tried their hand at paddling and peppered our guide with questions.
Our tour operator, Chinook Rafting had kid sized gear and extra layers of thermal clothes to keep the kids warm in the chilly mountainous river water. While white water rafting is an adventure sport with some risk, I felt completely safe with the kids on the raft thanks to our guide’s expertise. He checked in frequently with the kids to make sure they were enjoying the experience and expertly navigated us through the rapids.
After a thorough safety briefing, we met our guides and excitedly headed out on the river. The trip starts right away with Class II and III rapids where the Canadian Olympic white-water team trains. The kids rode in the front breaking the waves, while we followed our guides commands. Forward paddle, stop, hold on, get down! We surfed a few of the rapids, we spun down some of the rapids and celebrated our success after each rapid with a paddle high five.
The second part of the river was a gentler ride where we had the opportunity to indulge in some good old-fashioned water fights with the other boats. It was also an opportunity to sit back and really appreciate the wilderness we were floating through. No civilization in sight, just endless forest and mountains and the sounds of birds and the river. Our guide Dave pointed out some interesting things like the holes in the riverbed walls where birds nest and the effects of the 2013 floods on the river. It was also a chance for us to get to know our raft mates from all over the world. Towards the end of the adventure, we got to jump in and drift to our exit point in the chilly, take your breath away waters.
It was a treat to get back to base camp and enjoy warm drinks and snacks as we excitedly re-lived our adventure through the professional photographer’s photos. Chinook Rafting will then return you in their shuttle bus to Canmore or Banff if you require transportation.
There really is no better way to appreciate Alberta’s pristine wilderness then white-water rafting down the Kananaskis River as a family. Our hearts were pounding with exhilaration and we felt a sense of accomplishment and teamwork as we successfully navigated the white-water. From the shrieks of laughter on our raft, it was hard to tell who was having more fun: the kids or the adults.
Dawn Nicholson is a Canadian living overseas in Australia. She dreams about living in the Canadian Rockies someday and in the meantime blogs about traveling and living overseas with her three kids at 5 Lost Together. Dawn has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas.