What kind of person are you? The kind that lives for speed and likes to hightail over ripples of water around rocks and branches taking every rapid like it's your last? Or are you the type that likes to float aimlessly through calm waters enjoying the lull of life and the slow ride back to where you came from? Whether you're a floater or the conqueror of white rapids, there's a tour somewhere for you.
Starting out West in California, Tributary White Water Tours (tel. 800/672-3846; www.whitewatertours.com) has been leading tourists on white water rafting trips for more than a quarter century. With a host of early season specials, day trips are down in price and the perfect time for beginners or advanced rafters to save a little dough. They even have trips "suitable," according to their expert advice, for kids. Offering trips all over California (southern, northern and central, inland and coastal), Tributary has regularly priced planned trips as well as specials, day trips and white water vacations. On the early season front, Tributary offers 10 percent off weekday tours and weekday prices on the weekends. Before Memorial Day, you can take advantage of the discount on the South Fork and Middle Fork of the American River, and on all the other California rivers through April. The American River is in Northern California near the Nevada border just an 80 mile drive from Sacramento. A one-day, 17 mile, fully guided, Class IV trip on the Middle Fork starts at just $98 dollars during the week and goes to $128 on Saturday and Sunday. A half-day tour on the South Fork of the American goes for $79 on weekdays and $88 on Saturdays. The full day 13 mile trip on the same route goes for $93 during the week. For kids, take another 10 percent off the above prices for 16 and unders.
Important to note, a Class IV trip means "more challenging but fine for an adventurous first timer." So you know, a Class I trip means easy ("small waves, some rifles"), Class II equals medium (or "swifter current with wide passages"), Class III means difficult ("numerous waves, difficult rocks, eddies, some narrow passages and maneuvering"), Class IV is very difficult ("powerful waves dangerous rocks, boiling eddies with powerful maneuvering required"), Class V is extremely difficult ("violent rapids following each other without interruption, big drops, violent current with steep gradient") and Class VI means unnavigable (or "commercially unrunnable").
Now, back to the good news, a two-day "Family Special" focusing on easy Class II river sequences departs on the East Fork Carson River on Saturday and Sunday June 10 and 11, 2006 costing $284 for adults and $142 for kids and also from June 13 and 14, 2006 costing $254 for adults and $127 for children. Stellar views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains dominate the scenery on this overnight trip that includes great fishing and easy access to Lake Tahoe. Included in the price of this trip and all California Tributary White Water packages are a safety and paddle briefing, meals during trip time from the first lunch to the last meal, (vegetarian and special diet meals available upon request), shuttles to and from the rendezvous site, a professional guide, all rafting and safety equipment, and if overnight, accommodations at scenic and "spacious" river camps.
Colorado is also known for narrow and fast running rivers with challenging as well as easy white water rapids. Up north by the Colorado border where Utah and Wyoming meet on the Green and Yampa Rivers near Dinosaur National Monument, there are some great runs. Raft Utah (tel. 800/423-4668; www.raft-utah.com) in conjunction with their partner organization Raft Colorado (tel. 800/423-4668, www.raft-colorado.com) through their parent company Adventure Bound River Expeditions has been offering overnight and fully-guided day trips to the region since 1963. They take trips through Canyonlands National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and Desolation and Westwater Canyons including the Moab Desert. You gotta love a trip where the level of difficulty on the river depends entirely upon the amount of snow melt coming down from the mountains above. That's exactly what happens on the four day trip through the Yampa River over the Utah border into Colorado. Cost of the trip comes to $715 for adults and $670 for children 18 and under. Putting a group of ten or more together brings the price down to $650 per person. The trip departs twice in May and three times in June. This trip uses inflatable kayaks which are light and maneuverable in the rapids for the Class III and IV levels and kicks off at 7:30am from Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
For the floaters out there, the Grand Canyon Tour Company (tel. 800/2CANYON; www.grandcanyontourcompany.com/float.htm) operates a "Colorado River Float Trip" departing from the Hoover Dam. The website even warns that this is no white water trip, that "you may get splashed but no rushing white water. This is a relaxing 11 mile float trip in rafts that have been approved by the Coast Guard and National Park Service." So rest assured, you'll be floating leisurely down the river in a 42 person raft with a professional water guide at the helm. And what a way to see the Hoover Dam. On the water for approximately three hours, these float trips are a great way to take in the Nevada sun. This particular float trip takes about eight hours from hotel pick up to drop off (which is included in the price of the trip), and costs approximately $115.95 and includes all transportation as well as lunch. People of any age, from 9 to 90 can handle the ease of a float trip. Sites on the trip include rock formation, hot springs and a mix of plants and potential wildlife.
Closer to the East Coast, the splendor of North Carolina and West Virginia merge with a rafting trip traversing the New River, a waterway running from the western mountains of North Carolina to the New River Gorge in West Virginia, a place that some people the "Grand Canyon of the East." Songer Whitewater (tel. 800/356-7238; www.songerwhitewater.com/newriver.htm) has rafting trips on the New River for beginners looking for an easy ride to adventure seekers on the go. The most popular of the Songer trips is a full day 10 to 15 mile trip covering the lower section of the New River. Expect Class III to Class V rapids on this excursion that costs $79 per person on weekdays and Sunday and $100 on Saturdays. The almost seven hour trip includes lunch and is available to people 12 years and up. For the entire family, Songer has a Middle River excursion that crosses "small and playful" waters allowing for ages of six years and up. Costing only $75 during the week and Sundays and going up to $90 on Saturdays, take a discount of 50 percent for children from six to 17 years old. A riverside lunch of peanut butter and jelly is included in the price. As you'll see when you go the website, the company offers a diverse array of trips including motorcycle, biking, horseback, climbing and All-Terrain-Vehicle excursions.
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