Rafting can be a lazy day lollygagging down a scenic river with young kids in tow or a serious adventure over challenging rapids through rocky-river terrain. Either way, it's an experience that stays with travelers seeking memorable experiences. Out in America's deep west, rafting takes on new meaning. In Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, rafting trips and schools are as plentiful as rivers. Here's a rundown of day-trips, weekend excursions, and adventure schools operating throughout these three outdoor-oriented states. Don't worry about safety: All these rafting companies are licensed and their instructors have undergone extensive course work and live-action testing.
Performance Tours (tel. 800/328-7838; www.performancetours.com) has a popular day trip on the Arkansas River for rafters of all skill levels. Prices start at $77 for adults and $67 for children and include a riverside lunch. A more challenging half-day trip on a more extreme part of the Arkansas River costs $59. The Arkansas River is world-renowned as one of the best rafting areas in the world. The river originates in the Colorado Rockies. The more popular rafting spots of the Arkansas River are a short trip from Denver or Colorado Springs.
Mild2Wild Rafting (tel. 800/567-6745; www.mild2wildrafting.com) has a very popular full-day package that combines a jeep-riding tour with rafting. The rafting half of the day is spent on the Lower Animus River near Durango, Colorado. The trip leaves at 8:30am and returns at 5pm. It costs $99 for an adult and $79 per child. This trip is recommended for people ranging in age from 4 to 84. Wet and fun (or Class III rapids) are the most you'll encounter on this ride through the Colorado countryside. A two-day rafting trip in Utah over the Colorado River costs $195 per adult and $155 per child. Camp under the stars and trees by the river's edge. Mild2Wild will provide sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and tents. Â?UnbelievableÂ? camping style meals will be served.
Sheri Griffith Expeditions (tel. 800/332-2439; www.adventuresports.com) is a rafting school and tour provider with a four-day three-night trip on the Colorado River through Canyonlands National Park. Rafting is done on a motorized Â?J-rigÂ? Traveling in the Â?J-RigÂ? allows for a quicker and safer passage through the canyon so that rafters can more easily enjoy their surroundings in the hands of a master raft captain helming the craft. Sheri Griffith Expeditions has 36 years of experience. The trip costs $835 for adults and $695 for children 10 to 16 years old. A short return plane flight costs an additional $100. The Highlights of the Cataract by Â?J-rigÂ? Tour is popular with groups of friends who want to get to know Utah's Moab stretch of one of America's greatest rivers. Guides prepare all the food. Overnights are spent on sandy river banks. A portable toilet goes along for the ride.
Snake River Kayak and Canoe (tel. 800/KAYAK-01: www.snakeriverkayak.com) instructs wannabe rafters on the rapids of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The one-day rafting school aims to educate rafters looking to increase their skill level. The trip takes place on Snake River, which according to the tour provider's literature is Â?teemingÂ? with elk, moose, bald eagles, and osprey. Rafters will learn about gear, safety, technical boating issues, and reading a river. After the morning's lesson and lunch, rafters get to try their new skills out on 16-miles of actual river as guides critique and aid them in their pursuit of better rafting. The one-day five-hour trip costs $95 for adults and $85 for children under 12 years old. Snake River Kayak and Canoe offers more mellow lake trips on some of Yellowstone National Park's lakes including Lewis and Shoshone.