On day six of our ten day family road trip through California, we had planned our first white water rafting adventure on the Kings River, and what an adventure it was! After some extensive research, we chose Kings River Expeditions (KRE) as our guide service to navigate us through the cold and turbulent water. My wife was pretty stressed out, as she had never done anything like this before and was fearful for the safety of our three children (ages 10-14). The Kings River is a class 2-3 ride with plenty of excitement for first-timers.
We arrived at the KRE base-camp which is located about an hour and a half East of Fresno, California. We were immediately welcomed by the friendly staff and were provided drinks and appetizers while we waited for other rafters to arrive. After a thorough safety class on how to survive a raging river if the worst-case-scenario were to happen, my wife was not feeling any better about the day’s activity. The rest of us were VERY excited!
The owner hosed the entire group down with cold river water just before boarding an old school bus for the 10 mile trek up a windy, dirt road. Needless to say, we stayed nice a cool during the trip even though there was no A/C on the bus and outside temps were~95°. Even the bus ride was exciting. We approached a very narrow, single-lane bridge spanning the Kings River, and due to its length the bus was not able to make the turn on the other side. Jeb (KRE owner, guide, bus driver) expertly maneuvered the 35 foot bus over the bridge… IN REVERSE!!!…WITH NO HANDS!!!…and he wasn’t doing it slowly either. If this guy could guide a raft as well as he could drive a bus, I knew we were in good hands.
Upon arriving at the river, we could see all the rafts were in the water ready to go. Groups were assigned to rafts and guide assignments were made. We were paired with Stacey, the KRE staff manager, and I could tell from the beginning she had been down this river more than just a few times. In fact, Stacey was rafting this river as a teenager and has been a river guide for over 15 years. She had also recently accrued some international experience in Morocco.
Stacey demonstrated all the paddling techniques that we would be using that day, and we took a few minutes to practice before we headed out on the wild river. I could see the anticipation on everyone’s faces as we approached the first set of rapids. Following our guide’s command, we paddled forward to gain momentum. Stacey expertly put the raft on a perfect course, and we blasted through. It was everything I had hoped for. The water was white, it was rapid and it was powerful! For us first timers, it was quite a rush, and could I see the excitement in my kids’ eyes and the fear leave my wife’s. From that point on, it was 100% pure fun!
The Kings River is a drop-pool river which means (just like it sounds) it drops, as you shoot the rapids, into a calm pool of flat water. This was really nice as it gave us time to set up for the next set of rapids. We switched spots several times during the trip and made sure the kids got their turn up front in the action. We even put one right up front in the middle, hanging on to a rope. I think that was one of the favorite spots.
Our 10 mile journey lasted just over 4 hours, and we hit over a dozen rapids. Some of the rapids had crazy names like Banzai, Tiger’s Tail and Fang Tooth, but our favorite, hands down, was the very last set called Rooster Tail. Stacey steered the raft with precision right into the heart of the raging water. We dropped into a hole and then blasted through the crashing waves. Our raft was completely filled with water!
Entering Rooster Tail rapids
Not only was this the favorite day of the entire ten day excursion, this was the favorite moment, captured by a KRE photographer.
Completion of the Rooster Tail rapids marked the end of our rafting adventure, as we had arrived back at the shores of the KRE camp. We changed into dry clothes and then gathered back in the kitchen area for an amazing dinner and video of the days events, which was very cool! These guides can really do it all. Not only can they steer a raft through raging white water, but apparently, they are also gourmet chefs. We had some delicious chicken, steak, rice pilaf and salad, and it was ALL good! Did I mention ice cream sundaes?
We were sad when the day came to an end, but it was an incredible afternoon, an experience that my family and I will never forget. The staff at KRE made an amazing experience even better. It’s hard to top the adrenaline of a white water rafting trip, but the amazing experience at the KRE camp was the icing on the cake. From the minute we got there, we were taken care of. They made the entire day enjoyable. The guides focus on two things: safety and fun.
I was so very impressed with our guide, Stacey, and how well she knew that river. She kept us right on target every step of the way. This was one of our biggest adventures as a family, and I owe it to our expert river guide. She kept us safe while providing a thrilling/chilling roller-coaster of a ride. Our only regret was that we didn’t sign up for the two day trip!
Things that sucked:
- The road back into Twin Pines (KRE base camp) is pretty windy. Kids about lost their breakfast.
Things that rocked:
- Beautiful river
- Great rapids, especially for first-timers
- Amazing staff
- Food was great!
- Free T-shirts
- Awesome photos (for purchase)
- Awesome video put to music (for purchase)
- Free overnight camping
- Bus driver skills!
Conclusion: White water rafting is just as fun as I imagined. Even the wife loved it! The kids think we are doing it every year, and if we are anywhere near the Kings River, we’ll be calling up KRE to guide us!