Both Fabian and I have had dreams since childhood about whitewater rafting. Being born and raised in Arizona, this dream was usually centered around the Colorado River. We didn’t quite make it to the Grand Canyon, but we did get our first rafting experience this summer through Geyser Whitewater Expeditions!
I will admit that when I was a kid, I had dreamed of whitewater rafting, but simultaneously refused to engage in anything of the sort because I was crazy scared of being involved in an accident and dying (I was a really positive kid). I’m sharing this wonderful piece of my past because I want you to know that I had a GREAT time whitewater rafting this summer. Your comfort levels change and grow as you put yourself out there and push your own limits. Okay, I’ll stop now. Let’s get to it!
What did we do? Whitewater rafting!
Where did we do it? Big Sky, Montana
Who did we do it with? Geyser Whitewater Expeditions
How long did it take? About three hours (two on the water)
Overall experience rating: ★★★★. I would do this again, but I’d make changes next time so it’s even better!
Fabian, Skyler, and I booked our reservation about three days out, with the help of a very friendly online messenger. Geyser Whitewater offers three different rafting experiences: a scenic, upper river, and lower river route (in order of increasing risk and difficulty). The minimum age requirement for their trips is six years old, so we lucked out; Skyler had turned six only days before our booking. Upon the recommendation of the online staff member, we reserved our tour for 9:00a (presented as one of the warmer trips) on the Upper Gallatin River.
We purchased a package deal that got us a half day rafting trip, as well as one entry access (unlimited time spent within that entry) to the Yellowstone Adventure Park in West Yellowstone. All together, the price was certainly not what we’d consider cheap for a lump purchase. However, when taking into consideration the activities that were included in that cost, we felt that the price was fair. Always a bonus!
The three of us arrived early, around 8:30a. Ended up being totally unnecessary, but better safe than sorry! We had plenty of time to browse the gift shop, look at photos, and admire the rock wall — no partaking in that this time around — before getting started. When we did get down to business, the cashiers were quick, kind, and helpful. They got us situated with our waivers, payment, and made sure that we had what we needed to get into the Adventure Park the next day. We did opt for wetsuit and bootie rentals for a small fee upon their recommendation since wearing them is supposed to be warmer than street clothes (and it was). I’m from Phoenix; I don’t like to be cold. Besides that, I do believe I was really rocking the wetsuit look.
We met up with one of the river guides before getting suited up with equipment. His demeanor was very relaxed, but he definitely did his part to inspire excitement in our family, especially with Skyler. My favorite part about both our guides (the second one we met a bit later) was their attention and kindness to all the children going on the trip.
The guides as a group helped everyone get geared up with life vests, helmets, and paddles. Each individual was checked to ensure that their equipment was put on properly, and Skyler’s was checked twice. We loved the diligence and commitment to everyone’s, but especially our kiddo’s, safety. This was emphasized again after we rode to the spot on the river where we’d began the tour; the group was split into two teams so individuals were evenly dispersed between two rafts and two guides. This method was in place to act as a buddy system on the river; if either team had any issues, another raft would be present on the water to assist. We all listened to a thorough safety briefing that detailed how to use the equipment and what to do in a variety of emergency situations. Once again, this aspect of the trip was heavily focused on the children, which I appreciated.
After loading up our rafts with passengers in calm water, our guide gave everyone the opportunity to practice some basic strokes at his command, as would be necessary once we reached the rapids. His method of instruction throughout the tour was clear and concise, giving everyone exactly what they needed to react swiftly and surely when propelling and steering as a group. I will admit here that the paddles were a little too big for Skyler, and he had a difficult time holding it properly. This caused some problems for us, as his out-of-sync strokes often collided with my in-sync ones. We were having a great time otherwise, so this didn’t bother me too much at the time, but I’ll definitely consider that when choosing our seating arrangements for the next rafting tour we take!
As we continued down the river, we had the chance to try out our new skills in actual whitewater rapids! This was our first time rafting, so we chose the tour that wouldn’t take us into anything more than Class III rapids, but that certainly didn’t lessen the thrill! The trip was a wonderful balance of adrenaline and docility; it was exciting, but not out of control. It’s not every day you experience something that puts you in control while also requiring you to (literally) just go with the flow.
Interspersed throughout these exhilarating moments were several other memorable delights. These included endless river guide jokes from none other than our river guide, lovely stories describing historical aspects of the areas we passed through, calm waters where kids could jump in to cool down, and finally… the opportunity to “ride the bull”. This last one was a huge deal for Skyler because he got to do it, along with the other child in the raft, and the two of them had the grandest time. “Riding the bull” simply means sitting at the front of the raft and holding onto the lines as we moved forward. He had a blast, and it was honestly a blessing for me too because I no longer had to worry about being hit with his paddle. Just look at this joyous face! He was laughing and grinning the entire time.
The total time we spend in the water amounted to about two hours. When we reached our pull out spot, we all ditched most of our gear (it sure was hot under those covers!). Skyler had the chance to pick a river stone to keep as a souvenir, which was awesome because he loves rocks… and it was free. We drove back to Geyser Whitewater headquarters, where we had the chance to change out of our wet clothes and browse actual merchandise.
Geyser Whitewater had a variety of souvenirs available for purchase, as we expected. The prices were a little steep, but the items were very stylish. Oftentimes gift shops have highly overpriced and generic merch, but these were unique and cute. I bought a hat. I love the hat. We also bought stickers for the travel journal. Good stuff.
Additionally, the company had professional photographers on site throughout the tour. Photos taken by those photographers were available for purchase afterwards, and they’re the reason we have some of these great pictures that were clearly taken at a distance!
I will not sugarcoat this next bit: the photos were expensive. We splurged on them because the few photos I had were not amazing, and it had been a long time since we’d done something totally new — we wanted to have those memories clear as day! However, the very nice thing about the photography bit was that the providers had multiple methods of giving us the photos. We could have had them burned onto a disc or directly Air Dropped to any of our devices. Additionally, keeping the receipt ensures that anyone can retrieve new copies of those photos should anything happen to their own copies in the future. A nice security. No buyer’s remorse here, even with the high cost!
In sum, my family had an incredible first-time whitewater rafting experience! We attribute much of this success to Geyser Whitewater Expeditions, whose staff members went above and beyond to ensure everyone on the trip had a great time. Where are your favorite places to hit the water? Share your thoughts below! Until then, we’re out!
Medical disclaimer: As always, consult a physician before you and/or your child engage in rigorous outdoor activity. The general information above is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you experience any problems or have concerns when engaging in physical activity, stop and contact a doctor before proceeding.