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Minimum Age to Go White Water Rafting (Plus Tips for Safety Rafting with Kids)

Spending time as a family participating in a physically challenging activity like white water rafting can be an excellent bonding opportunity.

What is the minimum age to go white water rafting?

No child below five years should go white water rafting.

Different rafting guide companies have different rules that govern a rafter’s age. In most cases, the age is determined by the river’s length and how challenging its rapids are.

Before taking your kids on a white water rafting adventure, I highly recommend you read this article. I’ll discuss the minimum age for white water rafting and share tips for rafting with kids to help you enjoy your vacation.

What Is The Best Age For White Water Rafting?

The experience of white water rafting may not be suitable for anyone below five years. The rapids that rafters transverse are not something to mess with, as they can take lives.

If your kids are of age and they insist on going white water rafting, they may still have to go on a shorter trip.

Here are some helpful guidelines for the white water rafting age limit.

Five to 10 years: Children between five and ten should raft for no more than two hours if they are complete beginners. If this is not their first time, they can ride for up to three hours but no longer.
Ten years to early teens: Kids within this age bracket can manage over five hours or a full day of white water rafting if they’re up for the challenge (and you approve of it).

White water rafting guide companies have reported parents lying about their kids’ ages so they can raft. That’s risky business because kids may not be able to withstand the rapids if they are too young.

Rapid Class Levels

Your safety and that of your kids while white water rafting depends on a river’s rapids and the level of rafting skills required.

Here is a classification of water rafting rapid classes to help you determine what’s safe and what isn’t.

  • Class 1: This is a beginner class, and it’s best for young families that want to enjoy canoeing and sightseeing as they transverse small rapids. In Class 1, most of the navigation will be done by your guide, and you have zero risk of falling into the river. Even if you did all, you would get back to the boat quickly because the water is calm. This is an ideal class for a five-year-old kid.
  • Class 2: Kids between five to 10 years fit well in this class as the rapids have small waves. The rivers in this category feature clear channels with waves that are easy to maneuver, while the rapids are readable and less risky. Paddlers should maintain the course with strict adherence to the instructions of the rafting guide.
  • Class 3: The rapids in this class feature medium irregular waves with obstacles under them sometimes. Therefore, Class 3 rapids are best for beginners who can concentrate and follow the instructions of a professional guide. Class 3 rapids are challenging, especially in a canoe, but you can enjoy and moderate them quickly on a river raft. Provided you don’t forget the safety procedures and be attentive to the river rafting guide, you will remain stable in the raft with minimal risks. This class is ideal for anyone between five to 12 years.
  • Class 4: Beginners between 12 and 14 are the best for this rapids class because they have the strength needed to paddle hard when required. Nevertheless, Class 4 requires a professional guide skilled in rafting, safety kayaks, and scouting.
  • Class 5: The rapids in this class are very long, challenging, and require expertise. They go through narrow canyons with gradient drops that are like a waterfall; therefore, you must be ready to get wet. Class 5 is recommended only for white water rafting experts with enough knowledge about a particular river. Rafters must also be in good physical condition.

Regardless of the white water rafting class you are riding, you must ensure that any member of your family participating in this activity is skilled and has the concentration required for their class. They must also be willing to follow the instructions from the rafting guide.

Important White Water Rafting Terms You Need to Know

Before hitting the river, your white water rafting guide will take you through the terms and instructions they use. The guide will mention many terms, and while you don’t need to know all of them, it helps. Here are the most critical water rafting terms.

  • Put-in: This is the starting point of a rafting trip.
  • Take-out: The point where a rafting trip ends.
  • River left/river right: Sometimes, your rafting guide will face you with their back against the boat’s front. If they want you to take notice of any features on the right or left, they will use ‘’river right,’’ or ‘’river left’’ depending on your raft’s direction. This will prevent any confusion in terms of direction when rafting.
  • Flip: To flip means to capsize the raft.
  • Safety kayak: This person accompanies the raft to assist swimmers. The number of kayakers in a raft is determined by the number of passengers and the guiding company’s safety skills.
  • Swimmer: This is anyone who falls out of the raft. When one falls out, the guide will shout ‘’swimmer’’ to attract the person’s attention in a rescue attempt. They use the word swimmer because it may be difficult for them to know every passenger’s name.
  • Safety talk: Safety talk takes place before starting any rafting trip. The guide explains essential details of the journey and the safety measures to the passengers.
  • Undercut: An extremely difficult area where the river current flows under a rock, ledge, or overhang. Such an area is to be avoided.

Safety Tips For Rafting With Kids

White water rafting is an exciting outdoor sport, but it may be disastrous if something goes wrong. Here are white water rafting safety tips for kids to keep everyone afloat.

Plan Ahead

The number one thing to consider when planning for a water rafting trip with kids is the weather.

In some regions, you can only raft before or after the rainy season. In other areas, the season may be too cold for rafting, so you’ll have to plan your trip accordingly.

The other critical factor in planning is choosing a water rafting guide company. There are so many companies, but not all of them have well-trained guides.

Your choice of company can turn your trip into a beautiful memory or a nightmare you will never forget; hence, you must be careful.

You need to check the credentials of several rafting companies and find out if they meet the legal requirements regarding training and safety.

Also, you can review their website or look at other review sites for testimonials from people they have served before. With this information, you’ll feel better knowing you aren’t exposing your kids to danger.

Know What To Wear and Bring During a Rafting Trip

If you’re with a rafting tour company, you won’t be required to bring many items. They will provide you with all necessary rafting equipment, including life jackets, wet suits, paddles, and helmets.

That said, some of the requirements are up to you, and here is a breakdown of all the things you will need for a rafting trip with kids.

  • Bathing suit
  • Synthetic rash top for sun protection
  • Sturdy shoes (avoid flip-flops)
  • Hat for face protection from the sun
  • Sunglasses with a holding strap
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Long-sleeve shirts

After rafting, you’ll need essentials like:

  • A change of clothes, socks, and footwear
  • Towel
  • Bag for wet clothes

Do not carry valuables like phones, cameras, and watches in the raft unless your guide provides a dry bag. Most rafting companies offer photo services, so there is no need to risk your camera.

Decide If Rafting Is Safe for Your Child

Most water rafting accidents occur because rafters ignore safety regulations and their own health limitations.

Rafting is a thrilling activity and requires one to be physically fit. Avoid taking your kid rafting if they have health conditions like heart problems or other serious health issues.

Follow The Guide’s Instructions

A professional guide will teach you the basics of rafting before you do anything. You’ll learn to paddle the boat and how to hold the paddle.

The guide will also show you how to sit in the raft so you don’t fall into the water.

Following the instructions of your guide will keep you safe. The guides understand the river well and know how to navigate, so listen to them carefully.

Always Wear a Life Jacket

Never venture out into the water without a life jacket. Ensure all the buckles are clipped and that the jacket fits your body well.

A well-fitting jacket will keep you from drowning in the water if you fall out of the raft.

Stay in the Raft

Staying in the raft sounds like common sense, but you can easily be tempted to dive into the water at points.

Ensure your hand is over the paddle, and in case your boat hits a rock, and you lose the grip, quickly return to your seat and continue paddling.

If you happen to fall out of the boat into the river, don’t panic. Instead, hold onto your safety equipment and follow your guide’s instructions.

Never Raft In The Dark

Rafting should strictly be done when there is enough daylight.

If you are to participate in moonlight rafting, ensure your company guide is experienced and understands the river well.

Possible White Water Rafting Risks

There are intrinsic dangers that come with white water rafting. Therefore, you must know the risks involved in the activity before allowing your kids to participate.

Below is a list of the water rafting risks you need to be watchful about.


This is the number one danger of white water rafting.

Where there is water, there is always a risk of drowning.

Sometimes, rafts flip over, causing the passengers to fall into the river. If they’re not strong swimmers or if they’re not wearing a life jacket, their life is in immediate danger.


This condition causes your body temperatures to be abnormally low and often affects people when rafting.

White water often comes from snow melt and spring run-off, and that’s why it is very cold. The white water rafting sport also occurs during the spring when the air temperatures are freezing.

Even if you are well-armed with your dry or wet suit, they may not effectively protect you from the cold. As a result, your body temperatures will abnormally go low.

Therefore, you should take your kids to raft during the summer season.


Most water rafting rivers feature rocks, making the activity a risk. One can easily smash, brush, or bang on the rocks and sustain serious injuries.

Also, you can lose the grip of your paddle and have them swing into the raft, thus hitting you or your colleagues.

Interestingly, these occurrences can happen even while one is sitting in the raft.

Getting Stuck

Rivers boast many features, including rocks, holes, and drowned trees. It is, therefore, very possible for white water rafters to get stuck in these features. This is a dangerous occurrence because no matter how equipped one is, they will be out of breath in a few minutes if they get stuck.


Taking time with your kids to go on a white water rafting adventure can be a lot of fun. Be sure to follow the safety requirements and age guidelines I outlined here today to make the day fun and safe!