If you have ever experienced the swift currents of a river from the inside of a rubber raft then you understand how thrilling such an adventurous activity is. The swift currents funneling between boulders, the waves that propel the raft upward, contribute to an exhilarating experience beyond comparison. But there are many safety issues to whitewater rafting. And if you are aware of these concerns, and you prepare, then you can limit the risk involved. Here’s a few tips to stay safe when out on the river in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley.

The first, and probably most important bit of safety advice, is to hire a guide if you are unsure of the river on which you plan to raft, or if you are unsure of the skill level required to row at river flows both high and low (low water, oftentimes, can be more challenging and technical to row than high water). A river guide knows and understands the exact direction of the lines the raft should take, and he or she will understand the river at all flows. The guide will have rowed certain stretches of river daily, if not multiple times.

The second is to make a plan with your rafting crew. Everyone should know and understand what to do in the event of an emergency. Everyone should know and have quick access to safety devices. Everyone should know the proper procedure for retrieving someone gone overboard.

And if you plan to row a river for the first time, and you don’t intend to take a guide, then do your homework before you go. Take a look at river maps; look at the section carefully on google maps; and, if available, talk with someone with knowledge about the river.

If you plan to visit the Bitterroot Valley to float the rivers, whether in high water or normal flows, then we hope you have fun; the Bitterroot Valley is home to some of the most spectacular stretches of river miles. But if you do come, then remember to stay safe, and to float responsibly.