“If itʼs raining, will the raft trip be canceled?”
I canʼt tell you how many times I have heard this question over the last four decades. I
suspect more than a few guests have come up with some elaborate excuse to get out of
their reservation to go white water rafting when the real reason for their ʻcold feetʼ was
the thought of being on the river in the rain.
First of all, the majority of our clientele live in the Puget Sound – now known as the
Salish Sea – region of the Pacific Northwest. A region I like to call ʻthe wet side. It rains
often, though rarely hard, west of the Cascade Mountain range. Seattle ranks 44th
nationally in annual rainfall (38 inches), but the drizzle is chronic and the air temperature
is less than conducive to heighten desires to go outside.
But I mention the source of our clientele because our most popular rivers are on the
other side of the Cascades – the side considered high desert, or, in other words, dry.
Where the forests consist of ponderosa pine and not Douglas fir.
Now, mind you, it is not always dry, but Puget Sounders wake up for their morning
coffee on the day of their reservation, turn bleary-eyed to check the weather conditions
outside their door, and when they encounter 40 degrees and raining, it is
understandable that a shudder runs up their spines at the thought of floating down a
river. The odds are, however, the weather east of the Cascade range is much milder, or
even the opposite. The Cascades make a pretty impenetrable curtain against the
march of the clouds eastward from the Pacific Ocean.
Secondly, you are going RAFTING! WHITE water rafting! Unless you were picturing a
leisurely inner tube float including a drink with a tiny, colorful umbrella in it – the whole
idea is to get wet. Which is the reason we supply our guests with neoprene wetsuits,
booties and splash jackets, and recommend bringing non-cotton, warm, optimally fuzzy,
tops to keep your torso toasty. In the spring, warm, fuzzy caps, like the kind you don on
the ski slopes, are a wise addition to your river rafting attire.
Many years ago, in the early days of Washington white water raft trips, we tried to
cancel a river trip because of a down pour and persistent inclement weather. We had a
company from Seattle booked on the Wenatchee River, a company of engineers, and
the weather had turned abysmal, even by eastern Washington standards. We thought
we would do this group of employees a favor and give them the option of canceling, so
we didnʼt even put the rafts in the water before we went to meet them. We were
confident that no group would want to brave the rainfall.
We could not have been more mistaken. When we reached the rendezvous point, fully
expecting a party of gloomy guests praying that we would offer them a way out, we
found instead 40 enthusiastic guests clad head-to-toe in bright yellow rain slickers and
ready for their day on the water. We were impressed. We sheepishly inflated the rafts
and set about having a fantastic day.
And that was the last time we ever considered altering rafting plans due to rain. We
have never canceled a rafting trip in 36 years because of less-than-adequate weather
Once you are on the river, you are going to get wet, and quite possibly, drenched. Just
be sure you have come prepared. Bring extra warm clothing for on the river and off.
Maybe even some energizing snacks that are easily transported. Jackets with hoods
are essential, as are ski caps.
Think like those hardy engineers and turn a weather-induced frown upside-down.