Understanding the Different Types of White Water Crafts

When you live in Colorado, going rafting is one of those things you’ll find yourself inexplicably drawn to. Some of the biggest rapids on any river in the United States occur from the massive snowfalls that we have here. Whether you hit the Arkansas River, Royal Gorge, or the Colorado River; you’re bound to have more rapids than you can handle in 2012.

As you spend more time on the river, the regular raft will lose some of it’s adventure. After a while, even class 5 rapids (a particular line that even taken perfectly still results in contact with boulders) will seem tame in an inflatable raft. The next step is to get into a different craft; here are the most popular.

1) White Water Raft

A white water raft is a nylon and canvas skeleton filled with air. These are usually larger crafts and the most common white-water rafting craft for commercial use. Because of their size and displacement, they can carry quite a bit of weight, whether it be human or other cargo.

These crafts are used for long expeditions as well as short day excursions. Because of the ability to deflate and pack the craft into small spaces, as well as being able to make on-the-fly repairs, these are easily the most popular craft purchased for white water rafting, and the most common craft that you will encounter. Another major point in favor of this craft is its displacement ratio, as it doesn’t feel the same penalties to its buoyancy that other crafts experience.

white water crafts

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/grobson/2685167590/

2) CataRafts

Catarafts have the basic design structure as a white water raft, but they are specifically designed to be piloted by two people. As with most forms of rafting, there are two ways to make it more challenging after you have made it to the highest class of rapids. Either take a smaller craft, or one that requires more than one person to pilot.

Catarafts are usually made of more durable materials than a White Water Raft, as kevlar is commonly used to enhance overall durability. When you have multiple people trying to pilot the craft, there is usually a delay between when orders are given and when they are executed. Therefore, it does require an expert boatman to control such a craft. Usually, catarafts are used by guides to test their skill if they choose to pilot them solo, or as a team-building exercise by taking the bulky cataraft down class 4 or 5 rapids.

3) White Water Canoes

A white water canoe is one of the coolest crafts you can go down a river in. While they are closely related to kayaks, they are a bit more buoyant, and are more forgiving for less experienced rafters. These crafts are usually made with a combination of kevlar laminated over fiberglass for durability. Unlike Catarafts or regular Rafts, the strategy for these crafts is very different.

Because of their design, rafts and catarafts sacrifice durability in favor of portability and stability. Instead of trying to dodge around obstacles, you can truck over them, and just quickly repair any damage you incur. Canoes on the other hand require a much higher level of skill and finesse. If you damage your canoe during a multi-day trip, you won’t be able to repair it at camp. The biggest risk when using a canoe is sinking when larger waves start to deposit water into the craft. For this reason, more inexperienced canoe riders have large cylinders of foam attached to the sides to prevent it.

4) White Water Kayaks

By far the most fun craft to navigate a white water rapid in is the kayak. These are usually constructed from plastic, and differ from other kayaks because they are specifically meant to have water enter them. Usually the kayaker wears a skirt, which is a neoprene attachment that covers the entrance to the kayak to allow the whole craft to be submerged without sinking.

As expected, a high degree of skill is necessary to really take advantage of all the kayak has to offer. The most essential skill to have is the ability to execute an eskimo roll. This is when the craft is overturned, and the rider uses the blade of his paddle and the current to help flip him back upright. A roll can be performed as a necessary maneuver to right oneself, but can also be done partially to help drain the craft.

Pete Wise works for Wilderness Aware Rafting doing Inbound Marketing. Wildernes Aware is the leader in Colorado White Water Rafting and leads the state in guide experience. Check out their Arkansas River Rafting trips as well. If you liked the article, check out Pete’s site for Denver SEO

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