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Last Updated on August 30, 2016 by Diane Hoffmaster
My family was recently was with a whitewater rafting adventure and I admit...I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. We are an outdoor family but our experiences tend to be of the SLOW variety. Hiking, paddle boating, kayaking, camping and even horseback riding are all common outdoor experiences that we like to enjoy as a family. Whitewater rafting sounded rather fast! But, we were excited to give it a try and finally got a warm weekend without any prior commitments and headed over to WhiteWater Express in Columbus, Georgia to give it a try. If you are looking for a whitewater rafting adventure and are visiting Georgia, I seriously recommend them for your experience!
Our Whitewater Rafting Adventure
Going into a Class 5 rapid. Emily and Diane in front,
Drew and Alex in back, right in front of the guide
I was impressed with the safety record of Whitewater Express and was honestly thrilled that every raft had it's own guide. All 4 of us have some small boat experience and are familiar with paddles and steering but only my son has ever gone on a whitewater rafting adventure before with the Boy Scouts and it really didn't go all that well. But, the people at Whitewater Express walked us through everything from choosing a helmet to getting the life jackets fitted, to telling us everything that COULD happen and what to do if it did. Thankfully we listened closely so that when my husband and son ended up outside the boat and in the water they didn't freak out and managed to make it back to the boat safely!
Our whitewater rafting adventure took place on a section of the Chattahoochee River right below a man made dam at the hydro electric plant. Whitewater Express offers lazier rides down river in the mornings and at 4 they open the damn which increases water flow to create a series of rapids ranging from level 2 to level 5 (the highest there are in whitewater classifications). Here is a little bit about the experience from their website:
Come raft with us on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Ga./Phenix City, Ala., the longest urban whitewater rafting in the world! The course has been described to be “Wild as Colorado and Warm as Costa Rica.” USA Today picked the Chattahoochee Whitewater Park as one of the Top 12 man-made Adventures in the World! The course consists of class II-V whitewater and is one of the most exciting sections of whitewater in the US! We are able to run two types of trips (Classic and Challenge) on the same 2.5 mile stretch of river due to the dam-controlled release which occurs daily! During the day, the river will run at approx. 900cfs with Class I-III+(IV) rapids which is a perfect combination of fun and adventure for the whole family! In the afternoon, the water cranks up to 9,000-13,000cfs (10x the morning flow!) with Class III-V rapids, which are some of the biggest on the east coast and provide for a wild and exciting trip that is unlike any other on the east coast! Come join in the excitement and experience some of the biggest rapids east of the Colorado, right here on the whitewater section of the Chattahoochee!
Paddling our hearts out. Mom swearing. Drew looks very concerned!
We were given one or two very important tips for staying in the boat. Number one is to KEEP PADDLING. That means, no matter what happens, keep sticking your paddle in the water or you won't make it through the rapids without ending up in the water. The other was to wedge your feet tightly under the seat in front of you to help keep you in one spot. I took this advice to heart and in almost every photo taken of this class 5 rapid, you will see my paddle still going!
Pretty sure mom is the only one still paddling.....
I'm not gonna lie...I was slightly terrified! In the photo above, I am pretty sure the words OH SHIT! are coming out of my mouth. But, it was a good terrified! I am not a roller coaster fan but it is that same feeling. Scary exhilaration that you could die but wow, you are going to have fun doing it!
More swearing from mom. Emily is having a blast!
My kids are teens and are pretty used to outdoor adventuring. They were nervous but excited and had a ton of fun on our whitewater rafting adventure. I wouldn't bring young kids and you would need to check to see what the height/weight limits are before booking your experience. The whole river coarse isn't rapids. In fact, most of it was just a lazy downstream meander. There were 4 or 5 sections of river that are classified as rapids and the whole experience took about an hour. You actually go downriver twice. The first time you go through what is called 'the lazy river' where you get out of the boat and just float down stream in your life vest. The second time you take a different section of river that takes you to the class 5 rapid. Both trips were incredibly fun and start to finish the whole experience took a little over 3 hours.
Uh-oh. Now we are in real trouble! But don't worry....mom is still paddling!
Right at the class 5 section of rapid, there are a bunch of rocks. (obviously, that is what creates the waves and turbulence, right?) Well, on those rocks, you will see WhiteWater Express personal watching every single boat that goes through. They have flags to signal that it is safe to enter the rapids. They have guides watching to make sure all the people are accounted for. They have kayakers in the water after the rapids to pick up anyone who ends up outside the boat. They have people on the shores watching over everyone. We had about 9 boats in our journey and every single one of them waited in the eddies along the shore until all 9 boats were through before continuing on to the rest of the river. I was seriously impressed with the unity of the group and how well we were watched over by WhiteWater Express.
Here is where we lost Alex. Not sure how the guide didn't drown! Where is he???
Mom is vertical but sticks the landing. Squashing Emily in the process.
Seriously, we had so much fun on our whitewater rafting adventure! I am not sure how my daughter and I managed to stay in the boat in that picture up there. We were in the front of the boat and were nervous at first but we managed to stay seated the entire time. My husband and son were in the last row of seats and we lost my son once and my husband twice. Girl Power, right? We rock!
Still holding strong! We got this! Mom no longer paddling. Too busy praying...
My husband got tossed out into the class 5 rapid and I must say, he was not impressed. The pre trip instruction covered this. You are supposed to hold your breath and just let yourself be dragged through the rapid. It is a 6 second journey from top to bottom and the water just spits you back out after the rapid and your vest brings you right to the surface. He said it felt like much longer than 6 seconds and you are obviously disoriented from being tossed around like a rag doll. While he had fun on the trip, I'm not sure he will be going on another whitewater rafting adventure any time soon. He says he loved it but once was enough!
Drew notices Alex is missing! "We lost dad!"
Lookout dude on the rocks gives mom a high five for managing to stay in the boat!
I have to say that our guide was awesome! He managed to keep us all alive and tell bad jokes all at the same time. Multitasking at it's finest. I appreciated him jumping in the water to help my husband and son back into the boat after they got flipped out as well. Overall, a great way to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend you look into your own whitewater rafting adventure! Check out WhiteWater Express if you are ever in the Georgia area looking for where to go whitewater rafting!
Have you ever been whitewater rafting?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.