by Julie Trevelyan

Thrill seeking river rafters love high water years. Whitewater! Spectacular drops and spins! The raging river surrounding your raft and sending you on the fun-filled equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Sure does. But low water years are amazing in their own right. We can think of plenty of reasons why, but we managed to wrangle them down to our top five. This is a low-water year, which means it’s time to embrace the fact that record high water levels just won’t be seen in 2012. Check out our top five reasons why low water can mean a truly fabulous time on your river rafting vacation, and then plan to get out there and enjoy it.

Whitewater Rapids on the Colorado River1) It’s a great introduction to river rafting.

Not everyone wants to leap into a river trip with a no-holds-barred “banzai!” cry. Some prefer the gentle, toe-in approach. In a low-water year, a river raft adventure can mean a sweet and easy welcome to your first river trip…or your child’s…or your whitewater-averse spouse. A low flow year usually means a somewhat more predictable and therefore safer experience for guests, which a lot of people prefer to have during their first-time river rafting. Cruise through a river at lower ebb and discover the river and canyon themselves. At lower water levels, rivers are generally calmer and slower, meaning you have more chances to take in your beautiful surroundings and go with the natural flow all around you. The Green River through Desolation Canyon is a good example.

2) More technical runs mean your guides really show their stuff.

On the other hand, a low water year can mean a more technical trip, as far as the guide is concerned. Rocks are more exposed, meaning more skill is needed to keep the raft away from those obstacles. Rapids can sometimes be highlighted during low water, meaning rafters get more of that classic whitewater experience they expect. When the rivers run really high, all the additional water can actually cover up the rapids, so to speak, whereas low water often gives them more of a chance to froth about in all their drama. Sit back and let your guide maneuver those paddles, and enjoy some wicked cool time on your low-flow river trip. The Colorado River through Westwater Canyon and the Green River through Lodore Canyon are both great low-water canyons.

3) Gorgeous white sand beaches.

Low water means beaches are left high, dry, and very inviting. Beaches as in real sand beaches, oh, yes, indeed! White sandy stretches of the best beachfront you’ll find in the American Southwest can abound during a low water year. Holiday guides know where those beaches are. Want to camp out on one? Join a Holiday river trip and the guides will be more than happy to spend some quality time on these unexpected little patches of white sand heaven. Big beautiful sand bars can be found on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon and the Green River through Desolation Canyon.

Family Whitewater Fun4) Smaller water can be more fun for smaller kids.

A low water season can make river rafting more of a splash trip, which is awfully fun for families with little tykes. Low water also often means warmer water, which is more appealing to parents as well to kids when they discover the water is a fun place to play around in. And for parents considering all the safety factors of having their kids on a river, a lower flow time allows for a more relaxed perspective as those wiggly little ones in their colorful life jackets and water sandals demand to be allowed to play in that super fun river they’re floating down. Perfect kid-friendly trips are the Lower Salmon River and the Green River through Desolation Canyon.

5) More fun on additional crafts like inflatable kayaks.

Also known as duckies, inflatable kayaks are a great way to laze down a river. Pulled out during low flow times as well as on slower sections of a river anytime during the season, duckies tend to bring about a lot of laughter, impromptu races, and happy sighs as guests float by themselves on the smaller vessels. These are a lot of fun for families and a definite bonus to low flow years. Test your kayaking skills on the Green River through Lodore or Desolation Canyon.


Julie TrevelyanWritten by Julie Trevelyan.

Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate.

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