Advice:Introducing Floating to Families

-- Last Updated: May-02-14 11:58 AM EST --

Hi all,

I'm trying to set up a program that introduces rafting and Kayaking to families, as well as one where family there becomes a part of the float. I've set up this blog: and would appreciate any feedback about how I can best introduce float trips to families.

What I have in mind are easy day floats, nothing more than class 3 rapids.

Or any ideas on topics that I should write about to introduce families to river life.


Nice shots of the Yampa.
I’ve only done the “town run” in Steamboat Springs, but I’ve done the San Juan canyons with a group, and Dolores Slickrock solo.

I think I can see the reasons for what you’re doing, but don’t know that I can offer useful suggestions about getting families into it. When it shades into therapeutic camping, it depends on you as a leader. Obviously you’d want families that are likely to pull together rather than go astray like sheep.

The core for our San Juan trip were very experienced Maine Guides who had both the technical skills and the ability to deal with most sorts of people they might have along. I couldn’t do that, certainly not with just anyone who wanted to go on a trip. But it sounds like you are off to a good start.

family rafting
Thanks for the response. I’d like the blog to entice families into river life. Any topics that any of you can suggest would be great. I do plan on offering free day-trip etc…this isn’t a money making effort for me. As a family therapist I think that being on the river together can be a powerful experience.

Oops, then I apologize and will…
remove my post above.

jack L

You want to do it?

– Last Updated: Apr-30-14 7:53 PM EST –

What training, experience, and expertise qualifiies you to lead family groups kayaking, and rafting?
I assume most of them will be novices.

Have you guided rafting, and kayaking trips previously?
What is your "personal" experience rafting & kayaking?
Are you a certified guide?
Certified by who?

Do you have any lifeguard training, or swiftwater rescue training?

Do you have any medical training?
Wilderness First Responder/Para Medic?

Do you have a source of insurance that will cover you in case of accidents/emergencies on these trips you'll be leading? If you're leading; you're responsible.

"You want to do it" means zip, nada, zilch.


Thank Bob

– Last Updated: May-02-14 11:08 AM EST –

Thanks Bob, great questions

What training, experience, and expertise qualifiies you to lead family groups kayaking, and rafting?
I assume most of them will be novices.

We would be rafting, no kayaking...over 30 years experience, I have lead groups and families on mountain expeditions, but not a formal river trip. Many private boating trips. I asked my question just for this kind of feedback.

These would just be day floats down easy stretches with nothing more than class 3 to deal with.

No I'm not a certified guide. Maybe we just need to use a company for the trip.

Yes on WWR experience and life guard training.

I'd say I have a moderate amount of med training...I have an ER nurse that wants to do this with me.

The insurance question is a great one. I need to look into this as well. Again, I'm just thinking about how I would go about this.

Question, how is taking a family down the river different than a personal trip where you're taking friends, assuming you're not charging money. Perhaps this is a stupid idea and I should just stick with my silly blog. If so any topics that I should cover to get families into the sport? It sure would be nice to get more families out on the river.

Or maybe we use a professional guide company and I tag along and do a therapy session after the float?

Thanks for your response.

the differance is…
“Question, how is taking a family down the river different than a personal trip where you’re taking friends, assuming you’re not charging money.”

It is your suggestion, you are in charge, you are taking responsibility. Doesnt matter if they what to go or you talk them into it, you are not a group of like minded individuals, but a led party because you are “setting up a program”.

I have taken scouts from 11 y/o to 18 y/o without incedent but there is no way I would assume liablilty for a group like that myself.

If it is a day trip, why dont you just try a few and keep outfitters names handy. Suggest they try it.

Great idea and good points. Thanks!

Thanks for all of your input. I’ve found a commercial company that will run the family (so I don’t have to worry about all of the issues pointed out in this thread), then I can do the family therapy during lunch break/after the float. Thanks so much!

permits, etc
"Question, how is taking a family down the river different than a personal trip where you’re taking friends, assuming you’re not charging money."

CMC is non-profit organized group. Forest Service requires permits for organized groups even if they are not charging fees for those trips (and I’m not talking about a river use permit like you would pay for the yampa), and such trips are subject to whatever limitations (size of group) are imposed under those permits

also, on a private trip, everyone is basically responsible for themselves - you expect people to bring thier own gear and be competent (or at least you hope so) - “advertising” for families to come with you, I would be expecting you to provide all the equipment and training, even if you aren’t charging any fees. If you don’t have enough equipment to outfit your entire group, then you have to rent gear etc. I tend to doubt that you would get many takers on the deal if you tell them they will have to rent thier own gear and bring it along.

not quite clear to me if this “therapy” is part of your professional services - if it is, likely you would be considered as being a “commercial enterprise” (even if there is no fee per se for the rafting trip), which gets you into a whole different world of permitting and requirements and insurance issues - maybe, or maybe not, but potential is there

if you are taking a whole bunch of newbies down a river in several rafts, you would need at least one very competent rescue savvy guide to run sweep for you - otherwise it would be like herding cats

people drown in CI all the time, not to mention CIII - I agree you would be responsible if anything like that happened - so you would really want to have enough experienced people with you to have one in each raft I’d think - how are you going to enforce a rule for wearing PFDs at all times, etc -

your idea of just using a professional outfitter to run your group trips is likely your best and easiest way to go - but then people would have to be paying the outfitter, so you would be losing potential participants due to the cost - generally its a per person cost, so a family of 4 would get expensive reducing the appeal

I suppose you could just take a single family at a time, using your own gear, which would get around most of the potential difficulties


– Last Updated: May-11-14 3:17 PM EST –

Trip leaders in paddlesport, skiing, biking, hiking, et. al. should pay close attention to an area of the law generally referred to as “Assumption of Risk”. For these folks the question is, “What are the liabilities of leading trips, given our overly litigious society? In this context, here are some things for you to consider: 1) If you organize a trip and induce people to go, you assume what the courts call the “Mantle of leadership” and can be held liable in civil litigation, even if you only volunteer and have the best intentions. 2) Waivers are not fail-safe protection from liability and at best can only mitigate damages, if a court finds negligence. 3) If an event occurs which brings up questions about leadership, your prior training and history will be in question. Did you get training from nationally recognized organizations? This often includes Instructor certification, first responder training, or swiftwater rescue training. 4) Did you follow recognized procedures and have proper equipment and what are those procedures? I’ve seen many scoff at Instructor certification as a kind of merit badge, but fact is, if you want to lead trips, then this is your best protection from liability. Does anyone doubt that crazy things can happen on a river? Does anyone doubt that if it does, a grieving family will blame and sue the trip leader? Certifying and following safety procedures can offer protection and qualify you for professional liability insurance. If I were you I’d be very careful before proceeding with this. Not trying to rain on any parades, but this is my take on the situation. This is barely skimming the surface of a complex subject but should provide some food for thought. Hope it helps.


What jumps

– Last Updated: May-12-14 10:57 AM EST –

out for me is your saying "nothing more than Class III". I'm making the assumption here that at least some of your participants are going to be beginners. You can usually laugh about an upset in class I. An upset in class III will have boats, paddlers and gear flushing downstream. Beginners will wonder what they were thinking to undertake this and the rescuers will be on edge. This could be a less than mellow outing.