Commercial rafting has been popular for decades, and is still increasing. People of all ages and physical abilities take part in the fun, outdoor activity. Though fun, whitewater rafting is an extreme sport because of the dangers. Serious injuries and even deaths have occurred while rafting.
Besides death, there are several other dangers associated with whitewater rafting.
River water can be frigid depending on the amount of snowmelt. Hypothermia can occur in a matter of moments, even when warm and sunny out. Hypothermia, a point when the body's internal temperature is below 95°F (35°C), causes heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure to increase. If the body temperature continues to lower, you're reflexes and cardiac output will continue to fail.
Choose the proper attire to support your body temperature. Wetsuits and drysuits are available, and if the water and air temperature are 100°F or less, you should expect to wear a suit.
Dehydration can set in when you least expect it. Though you're surrounded by water, you still need a steady intake of water to stay hydrated. Your rafting experience may include physical exertion, which can cause you to sweat. You won't be able to tell how much sweat you've excreted, since you are already wet. Dehydration makes you loopy and is dangerous, especially when participating in an activity.
Before rafting, drink plenty of water for several days leading up to your trip. If you're unsure of how much to drink, you can gauge your water intake by using your body weight and dividing it in half. For example, if you weigh 145 pounds., drink 72 ounces or more.
Dangerous water conditions
Each river has different conditions, and your outfitter will set you up with the right tour. Although you will have an experienced guide with you, the water is unpredictable. Melted snow can cause a high stream flow, which makes the water move faster and hard to maneuver.
Besides the speed of the water flow, Class IV to Class VI waters are dangerous. These waters can include rapids and lead to waterfalls. Unless you are an experienced whitewater rafter willing to take the risks, this is not recommended.
Falling out of the boat
Although falling out of the boat is exhilarating and refreshing, it is still dangerous. With unpredictable river water, bumps, bruises and even drowning have occurred. Be certain to understand the risks involved before rafting, especially if you are not experienced.
The importance of a good sunscreen to block the UVA/UVB rays is usually an afterthought. The water is cool and you're having fun, but sunny or cloudy days can cause severe burns. Before hitting the river, apply a liberal amount of waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
Lisa M. White
Copyright ©2011 CPT Lisa M. White™. All rights reserved.