River Rafting California on the Klamath River with OARS
We are an adventure loving family and are always looking for fun ways to include the whole family in the great outdoors. I stumbled upon this family friendly rafting trip in Northern California and knew it would be perfect! Kids can participate as young as four years old and all the details are taken care of by the amazing staff. Check out why you should book your next white water rafting California trip with OARS.
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OARS White Water River Rafting Company
OARS, Outdoor Adventure River Specialists, is a family run company that started in 1969. Five decades later they have river rafting adventures and sea adventures that span the globe from California to the Galapagos Islands. OARS is at the top of its class with many accolades such as being named the “Best River and Sea Outfitter on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure. They are also featured as the top 2 outfitters in the world by Outside (Active Travel Awards).
In addition, OARS likes to give back to the community. They had a recent partnership with the National Park Foundation to open up the great outdoors for kids around the country by donating a portion of their proceeds to the foundation. Not only are they a wonderful company that cares about their guests, but they are also making strides to better the world we live in.
With so many river rafting companies, OARS has the history of being one of the best. Your family would be in safe hands on any of their family river rafting trips!
Klamath River Rafting Trip Highlights
Our family river rafting adventure took place on the Lower Klamath river in Northern California. We spent 3 days and 2 nights exploring about 20 miles of the meandering river in the Klamath National Forest. It was the first trip of the season in mid-June with unusually hot temperatures in the mid 90’s. Our group featured six adults and three children with three trained guides and one trainee. The Lower Klamath trip is one of their featured “family white water rafting trips.”
The minimum age for children to participate on this northern California rafting adventure is age 4. This is the perfect trip to try out what it is like to do some white water rafting with kids.
Even so, the Klamath River white water rafting for kids can also be a bit intimidating, so it is best to know your children and if they would enjoy this type of trip.
The Klamath rafting featured one nice rapid on the first day and then the major rapid on the second day that they would classify as a Class II or III depending on the height of the water. A perfect mix of laid back fun and adrenaline on our family rafting trip.
White Water Rafting Northern California Video:
We’ve put together this video montage to help highlight the family fun on our trip with OARS. Get a glimpse of the rapids, preview the delicious food options and don’t miss the part where my husband tosses me out of the kayak in a rapid!
Get a real sense of what is is like to enjoy the lower klamath river rafting adventure.
Whitewater Rafting Adventures with OARS Guides
I can’t say enough amazing things about our guides. These men and woman truly go the extra mile to make sure that you enjoy your experience on the river. Our group featured three trained guides and one trainee who was just learning the ropes.
From our very first introduction, my son fell in love with Suzy. She was our lead guide and had a special connection with the kids. She was quick to say hello to all the kids and before we knew it, she was applying fake tattoos, having nail parties, dancing in the boats along the river and jumping off rocks hand in hand with the little ones.
She steered the gear boat with true precision, taught the kids on the trip how to become a river guide and cooked up a mean steak! Always with a smile on her face, she truly made the trip memorable and my son still talks about her weeks later.
Sam was our paddle boat captain. A young man with a passion for the great outdoors. This was his first year as a guide and you could tell how comfortable he was. Interacting with the guests, pulling lifeguard duty in both the kayak and by the beach, he was a jack of all trades.
On the first day we spent some time in the paddle boat and Sam shared his passion for rafting with the children by teaching them how to row and staying patient as they learned.
David is a seasoned guide who is returning to the river now that his kids are older. A man of true wisdom and a passion for sharing his love of the river with guests, he was patient, kind and always willing to lend a hand.
From rowing the second gear boat down the river to setting up camp, making sure the groover had a nice quiet location and cooking up some delicious eggs Benedict, he was integral into making sure the trip ran smoothly.
Alyssa, or “curly” as she was affectionately called was learning the ropes. With close ties to the family that runs OARS, she wanted to get some experience as a river rafting guide. It was fun to see her blend right into the crew and she looked like a natural on the paddle boat by day 2. We all enjoyed celebrating her first official river meal on Day 1.
Best White Water Rafting Boats and Gear
Each trip is unique depending on the location and number of guests along for the ride. Our boats included two gear boats, one paddle boat, one inflatable double kayak and one inflatable single kayak for this whitewater rafting California trip.
The gear boats were large with all the gear for our trip loaded up with space in the front for a few guests. This is the type of boat where no work is required and you can just enjoy the scenery, chat with the guide and soak up the ambiance. There are ample places to hook in your day pack for quick access.
The paddle boat is for those that want a bit more action. Grab a paddle and help the guide maneuver through the rapids at his or her commands.
Even the little ones can get in on the action! My son at the age of 4 loved padding, splashing into the waves and giggling with delight as we flew through the rapids.
Need a bit more action? Hop into an inflatable kayak to feel the surge of the water, the crash of the rapids and keep cool while sitting low in the water. This was a favorite for my husband and I. As you can see, there is the potential for going for a swim!
As always, safety is a number one priority, so kayaks are sandwiched between two large boats and are advised on which path is the best for the rapids.
The OARS policy for children riding in the kayaks is a minimum age of 7 years old. Even when the little girls that was eight years old was riding in the whitewater kayak, the first boat was always keeping an eye out on the rapids as we were approaching and children were quickly loaded if it was determined the rapid wouldn’t be appropriate.
Our son was dying to ride in a kayak, so during a period of flat water with a couple ripples, he jumped in to ride with my husband and I in the double. A true delight!
In addition, each guest is given one day pack as a part of their rafting gear. Bring a carabiner to lock the bag into the boat. You’ll have access to this bag all day.
Check out what we packed into our day pack! (Click on the item to purchase via Amazon)
OARS Leave no Trace Policy
As the environment continues to show a major impact from humans, OARS is conscience to make sure they leave as minimal of an impact as possible. They ask that all guests bring products on the trip that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and reusable.
Meals feature separate trash and compost bins, as well as reusable dinnerware. You’ll be kindly asked to do your dishes, but the kids loved this part and asked to do the adults dishes as well!
Even human waste is properly disposed of. Pee goes into the river and poop goes into the groover, which is taken care of at the end of the trip. More on the groover later.
During our three-day, two-night river rafting experience, we were well fed! Starting with lunch on the first day consisting of appetizers, pulled pork sandwiches, chips, fresh fruit and cookies.
Then later while we played along the shore, set up our tents and played in the sand with the provided sand toys, Suzy and Alyssa were busy in the river kitchen preparing a feast for dinner!
Our first dinner that evening started with bruschetta as an appetizer accompanied by steak, salmon, macaroni and cheese, fresh salad, mashed potatoes and s’mores for dessert. If that wasn’t enough, we had beer and wine, along with soft drinks for dinner.
By morning, we arose to find some breakfast starters to fill our bellies. Yogurt with a variety of toppings, hot water to make tea or hot chocolate, as well as coffee. Later we had French toast, bacon, veggie sausage (for vegetarians) and fresh fruit.
Around lunchtime we pulled out by a rushing stream and the guides set up the tables with starters to munch on while they prepared sandwiches. Again, it was a wide variety to suit everyone’s palate with fresh fruit, chips, dip, vegetables, sweet treats and a choice of juice or water.
You could play by the stream, find a shady spot and linger over the appetizers. Then we had sandwiches with all the fixings!
Our second night of dinner featured burritos! Chicken was served for the majority of the crew and we appreciated the tofu mixture for those of us vegetarians. Add beans, rice, fresh guacamole, salsa, lettuce and tomato to make the perfect burrito.
Then for dessert, we had chocolate fondue! Can you image? Chocolate fondue in a beautiful campsite under the twinkling stars, it can’t be beat.
OARS also provides reusable insulated containers for use during meals. They are the perfect size with a little label to add your name for ease of finding your cup. Then you get to take your cup home at the end of your adventure as a keepsake.
If you are planning your own white water rafting trip and don’t plan to haul water, check out these great filtered water bottles.
Handwashing stations are set up at each meal time with soap and water that you’ll use with a pump. Air dry your hands and you are ready to eat!
Camping along the shores of the Klamath River
So what is it really like to camp with OARS? I’ll share all the details! I will say that I am not a huge fan of camping, but OARS made sure we had a comfortable nights sleep. You can either choose to bring your own sleeping bag and pad or rent one from OARS for $25 (known as a sleep kit).
Since we were flying in from the East coast, we elected to rent the kits. Also, since our family featured two adults and one child, we were given a “family tent” that fit the three of us easily.
The Klamath River campgrounds featured sandy areas to pitch your tent, trees for a bit of shade and along the river for soothing sounds of the rushing water to lull you to sleep. When you arrive at camp in the early evening, you’ll form a gear line to off load the boats.
All the adults and some of the kids line up to pass the bags up from the boat to the center location of camp. From there, you’ll grab your bags, designated with your name and then pick a spot to camp.
If you’ve rented a sleep kit, you’ll be given thick sleep pads that go directly under your tent to give you a nice soft surface. Luckily my husband has some camping experience, so he and my son set up the tent, added a tarp for a little entrance and voila!
Your kit will include a sleeping bag and small pillow. In hindsight I should have packed an extra pillow since I like to curl up with one in my arms, but my husbands fleece also did the trick.
Klamath River camping is a fun experience with the sound of the rushing water and the beauty of the forest around you.
In addition, we brought a gear line to hang inside the tent, flashlights, headlamps and a small portable fan (don’t laugh, you know you’ve thought about it). We stored most of our gear just outside the entrance and only tossed in the items we needed for that night and the following day. We also had portable chargers to keep our phones and cameras charged.
Everything else for camp life is provided. You’ll have small camping chairs to sit down and relax after a day on the river. A bucket full of various sand toys were provided since we were on a family friendly rafting trip and there were games like bocce ball.
Drinks are in the cooler with a variety of sodas, beer, hard ciders, sparking juices and more. We also had wine in the evenings for dinner.
In the evenings while the guides were busy cooking up dinner, we were able to enjoy playing along the river, swimming and just enjoying time as a family. There was no need to worry about setting up anything besides our tent and we appreciated the family time.
Using the restroom was one of the first things on my mind when I thought about doing a river rafting trip. OARS has the perfect solution! During the day you’ll typically go in the river, which isn’t hard when you want to go cool off anyway.
Then in the evenings they set up two “toilets”. One is called the groover and this is where #2 will go. It is a metal container with a traditional toilet seat with a lid. Then the second is more of a bucket with a toilet seat and a lid, which is for #1.
The groover and the extra bucket are set up just outside the main camping area around the corner with a large tree or a log. It is a private location, but you are still in the great outdoors. I’ll say it was quite the change of scenery from a small bathroom, but also quite relaxing.
You’ll be provided with a “toilet key” that contains toilet paper. When the key is missing, the toilet is in use. There is also a hand washing station located out by the toilet so you can wash your hands when you return.
Whitewater Adventures and Exploring
Each trip is slightly different, and our trip didn’t feature many hikes, but we were able to do plenty of exploring if we checked in with one of the guides first. On the second day, we pulled off to scout the rapids. All of us scurried along the riverbank, clambering over boulders to get a view of the river below.
The guides took their time to watch the river and plan a course of action. It was determined that the four-year olds would be walked to a meeting point while the older kids and adults would attempt the rapid.
The rapids were a blast and even better in the inflatable kayak! My husband and I worked as a team and tried out best to navigate the rapid, but in the end the front got swamped with water and just as fast at the water poured out, I went out as well.
I floated down the rapids a bit before my husband came to my rescue to scoop me back up, all to the cheers of my son on the riverbank, safe and sound with the guides.
In addition, we stopped twice during our trip to jump off rocks into swimming holes. Our son thought about jumping the first day, but decided it was a bit too much adventure. Both my husband and I took turns jumping, as well as quite a few other guests. The water felt good on those 90-degree days.
Another favorite memory was floating down a side stream on the sleep pads during our afternoon lunch break. David and Sam played lifeguard while the kids and Suzy went back and forth giggling with delight.
If you think your kids will be bored floating down the river, you will be delighted to hear that there is plenty to keep them busy! Kids can ride on different boats throughout the day, engage in water fights using provided water guns, learn to row the boats with the guides, take part in group rowing on the paddle boat or find a spot on top the gear in the “crows nest” to get a view above everyone. Then add in the various ripples, rapids and local wildlife.
Stress Free Vacation
I think this section is key! Yes, you can get the permits, rent the gear and head down the river on your own, but I’ll tell you that the money was well spent with OARS. Not having to worry about how to tackle a rapid, especially being early in the season with high water, as well as having experts who knew where to camp and were on hand to prepare all the food.
On day one we were told to leave everything up to the guides, to relax, soak up this time with our families and have a blast. We took their advice 100%! We slowed down, we splashed in the rivers, played in the sand with our son and shared in the moments that I’m sure he won’t forget. OARS has everything covered so that you can enjoy the trip!
It’s a perfect way to enjoy rafting Northern California’s Klamath River while making fun family memories.
White Water Rafting California Tips
Don’t forget these river rafting essentials!
Our OARS Rafting Trip on the Klamath River was honestly one of our favorite family adventures. We really enjoyed spending some quality time together away from all the distractions.
Feel free to leave me a comment or message if you have any questions.
Want to read more about our travels including some great family friendly hikes? Check out my post about Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint in nearby Southern Oregon. Visit the waterfall and climb over the boulders for lots of family fun.
Or check out my interactive map to explore the over 20 countries we’ve visited!
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