Age Limits for Whitewater Rafting

white water rafting age limits

Are you planning a family vacation? You have probably been examining all the options available to you, such as a trip to the beach or a quick jaunt to an amusement park, and you’ve settled on white water rafting. You love the idea of spending time as a family while you do something physically challenging. Plus, you want to do something different this year, now that your kids are getting older — but what exactly is the age limit for whitewater rafting?

At Raft1, that age is 12. No child under the age of 12 is permitted to go whitewater rafting, even if their parents accompany them. Why is this the age limit, and can you do anything to get around the rule if your child is under 12? Read on for answers to those and more questions.

Setting the Age Limit for Whitewater Rafting

The portion of the Ocoee where our rafting trips occur includes Class III and IV rapids. These generate some serious waves. The raft can get knocked around.  People can fall in!

While this is great fun for adults, it could be frightening for children. Smaller kids are more likely to get knocked out of the raft because they’re so light. They could easily get scared by all this bumping around, which is one reason why kids under 12 should not go on rapids this tough.

Why choose 12 as the age when a child can take the river? It has to do with physical and emotional maturity. While 12-year-olds can vary in size, the average one is just under five feet and about 90 pounds. They have the size and heft to move comfortably around the raft without worry that they will get tossed.

Plus, a 12-year-old can assist with the paddling. Younger kids may not be coordinated enough to handle a paddle. They may struggle with the guide’s directions for how and where to use it. A 12-year-old should be capable of using it correctly and helping the boat go in the right direction.

Safety First: The Best Age for Whitewater Rafting

We love kids of all ages. We believe you are never too young to start getting comfortable in the water, with the right supervision and under the right circumstances. That said, these are not the right circumstances for a child under 12 to ride the rapids. We discourage you from lying about their age just to get them on the water. It may not be a good experience for someone too young.

The rapids our families traverse on the Ocoee are no joke. While we provide equipment to protect your body and instruct you on best practices for safety, it’s up to you to listen to those instructions and follow them. We recommend that you undertake at least one of the many Care courses so that you know what to do in a situation that jeopardizes your child. That’s another reason why we have found 12 is the minimum age for rafting. Kids of this age have the concentration levels to pay attention to our instructions and to understand why we are giving them.

Attention span is also critical out on the water. Kids under 12 may not be able to pay attention during a rafting trip that can last several hours. Though we take every precaution on our trips, rapids can be intimidating for those who have never gone out on them before, and especially for younger kids.

Enjoying Time With the Family on the Ocoee River

All that said, for preteens and teenagers, family rafting trips offer a fantastic experience. It can be difficult for kids of this age to connect with parents, as any mom or dad of a middle or high schooler knows. A rafting trip gives you all a common goal and common purpose to strive for, pulling you together and encouraging cooperation. Other benefits of taking your family with preteens and teens on a whitewater rafting trip include:

  • Testing reactions: See how your child reacts to someone falling out of the boat or struggling to paddle. It’s a chance for lessons on compassion and empathy.
  • Improving life skills: You will meet new people on the trip and become close as you push toward a common goal. It pushes your children out of their comfort zones.
  • Absolutely no phones: Is your teenager glued to their phone? Great news — they won’t be looking at it out on the Ocoee, unless they want it to fall into the river.

Do you have kids younger than 12? A rafting trip still isn’t out of the question. You can bring the older kid(s) out to Raft1 while leaving the younger ones behind in the care of a relative. Then give the younger ones their own special time with you doing something more age-appropriate. In fact, everyone wins in this scenario.

Kids love getting the opportunity for one-on-one time with parents. By giving your full attention to different sets of kids, you make them feel special and noticed. You may find that this becomes a family tradition, almost like a rite of passage to hit the waves when someone turns 12.

Great Trip for a Group of Families at Church

We host many youth groups at Raft1. It’s an excellent activity for organizations that want their young people to bond. Consider the many opportunities for fellowship on this trip:

  • Getting to know others in the group on the ride to Raft1
  • Working together in the rafts to steer in the right direction
  • Enjoying lunch together
  • Laughing at all the new shared jokes and funny stories such a day creates

In fact, some kids enjoy the time out on the river so much, they return home begging their families to organize a trip of their own to the Ocoee. We can help coordinate your friends at church for a vacation none of you will forget.

Book Your Rafting Group Trip Today

If your family has children ages 12 and older, this could be the most memorable trip you embark on. It will test you in ways you could not imagine and bring you closer together as a family. Contact us today to get started or to request a free brochure about our options.