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Survive Your First White Water Rafting Trip with Six Important Safety Tips

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White water rafting can be intimidating if you have never tried it before. After all, who paddles toward rocky, fast-moving water on purpose? If you give it a try, you’ll see. River rafting is a thrilling, one-of-a-kind experience and one of the most popular things to do in Durango, Colorado. Durango Rivertrippers was one of the first white water rafting outfitters in the area and has been offering unforgettable trips down the Lower Animas river since 1938. We want you to have the best experience possible, which is why today we’ll be going over six important safety tips for your first white water rafting trip. Book your trip online today and feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns!

Tip #1: Choose a Professional Outfitter

When you take on a crazy adventure like river rafting, you want to go with an outfitter you trust. Feel free to ask questions to learn more about their business. How long have they been an outfitter? What kind of training do they ask their guides to go through? You can also check reviews and testimonials to see what other customers thought of their experiences. If you want to learn more about Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours, visit our Why Us? page. We’re not the cheapest or the most expensive outfitter in town, but we give you your money’s worth and we have had a spotless safety record for more than 35 years. Call or email us for more information!

Tip #2: Wear Your Life Jacket Properly

Durango Rivertrippers will provide you with a Type V life jacket, also known as a personal flotation device or PFD. Simply wearing it isn’t enough — you need to wear it correctly for it to be effective. Make sure all buckles are clipped and it is snug around your body. You need to be able to breathe, but you shouldn’t be able to pull the jacket off over your head. Your guide will check the fit to make sure everyone stays safe once you’re out on the river.

Tip #3: Stay in the Boat

Part of the fun of river rafting is being able to go for a swim, but there are times you don’t want to be in the water. Do what you can to stay in the boat when it gets rough and remember your three main points of contact.

Family enjoying a Durango rafting trip


Keep your foot firmly tucked under the air tube in front of you. It will help secure you in the boat, but you should make sure that your foot is not shoved so far under the tube that it is difficult for you to remove. If you are at the front of the raft, there will be footholds available.


The ride can get bumpy, so make sure you are properly seated. The best point for balance is to sit on the outer rim of the raft. Your guide will tell you if the conditions require you to adjust your seat.


Your paddle may not seem like a very secure point of contact, but it can help brace you in rough conditions. Paddle harder in heavy white water to anchor yourself.

Tip #4: Know What to Do if You Go Overboard

If you do fall out of the raft, don’t panic. You’ll most likely resurface close to the boat and be able to reboard easily. Listen for instructions from your guide — they know the river best and they know the best way to safely get you back into the boat. There are a few strategies you should know on how to swim in rapids, which we will cover in a future blog post.

Tip #5: Listen to the Safety Talk

Every Durango Rivertrippers white water raft trip begins with safety orientation. Make sure you are listening closely as your guide outlines what to do if anything goes wrong. It’s important to pay attention even if you have gone river rafting before, because not every outfitter has the same procedures and every raft and river are different.

Tip #6: Book Your Trip with Trusted Guides

Durango Rivertrippers has a spotless safety record because our guides are all professionally trained and certified. They have spent hours upon hours on the Lower Animas and they know how to navigate in all conditions. With the right guide and a company you can trust, you can safely relax and have fun on your first river rafting trip. Book your trip today — we can’t wait to introduce you to the excitement of white water!


From $119

Join us on a raft trip down the San Miguel River in Telluride, CO. In the spring and early summer this snowmelt-fed river plunges from the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains. NOTE: This river flows typically during the end of May and stops at the end of June. The dates we have loaded are the dates we are running this river. If you are looking for rafting in July and August check out our Durango River Rafting page.