Living an adventure can sometimes be a bit daunting. Often, it is the opportunity to try an activity we haven’t experienced before that exposes fears inside us we might otherwise never have known existed. We know that's true for river sports, so we're addressing 4 common misconceptions about white water rafting.

With many adventure activities, there can be a lot of nerves attached to it – especially if the sport is completely new to you and if it involves water.

From worrying about experience level to wondering if you need to know how to swim, there can sometimes be a lot of hesitation and tension coming from those who haven't spent much time in moving water.

But, experience is the key to understanding. If you don’t try, you will never know the excitement and joy that white water rafting can provide.

For those who are a bit hesitant to step foot on a boat and give river rafting a try, we want to address your concerns.

4 common misconceptions about white water rafting and other faqs


White Water Rafting on the Kicking Horse River


1. You Need Experience


One of the most common questions that we're asked at Glacier Raft Company is whether or not someone needs prior experience to hop in a raft and flow downstream. Many river rafting trips cover kilometers of white water rapids, so this is a great question.

“We reassure them that anyone can come and do it, people with all abilities… and all skill levels,” says Angela Lanno, a Glacier office staff member. We explain to people that our professional guides take first-timers down the river daily.

And for those who are a bit nervous for their first time, the Kicking Horse River is an excellent introduction. Although it boasts some great Class III and IV white water, it also has a calm upper section. This is one of the best things about this river – it starts out calm and gradually builds its way up to bigger rapids.


A Glacier Raft Company raft floating on Kicking Horse River with a family

Thanks mom and dad - this is sooooo fun!


2. You Have to be a Strong Swimmer

A fear of water tends to be a common concern among those who are nervous or scared heading out on the river.

“A lot of people come up to me and say, 'I can’t swim,' and sometimes I say I can’t swim either….” jokes raft guide Kris King. “But really, it's okay. We will put you in a good spot on the boat and keep an extra eye on you. And we will do everything just to make sure you are having a good time.”

Raft guide Darren Trapp agrees.

“I tell them that we take a lot of scared people and they definitely aren’t the scared-est or the first scared people that we have taken down the river,” reassures Trapp.

“I’ve never ever had anyone at the end of the day still be scared or wish they hadn’t done it.”


3. Rafting is No Fun in the Rain

Another common question that is routinely asked in the office at Glacier is whether or not rafting trips run in the rain.

Short answer, YES! Rain or shine, we are a go. Here in the mountains, the weather changes drastically – we typically don’t give much weight to what the weather forecasters tell us. Most rainy days still have pockets of sunshine and if there happens to be a thunderstorm, we can usually wait it out, as there are places along the river to stop if lightening starts to strike.

But either way, “Rafting is a pretty great rainy day activity.” Sure, the views are a little clouded, but unlike when you are out hiking or biking, it’s hard to notice the rain that might be pouring into the river.

“On a rafting trip, it doesn’t matter where the water is coming from,” explains Mareike Michele, a crew member at Glacier. “You get splashed anyways… so at least you get soaked from every angle. Plus, the water itself doesn’t feel as cold with the rain!”


boat going through a big rapid on the Kicking Horse River

Rafting is a great rainy day activity - you're going to be getting wet anyways!


4. It’s an “Extreme Sport”

Although it most definitely is an adventure sport, white water rafting is not too “extreme.” Like most adventure activities there are risks associated with it, but there are a ton of precautions in place to ensure it's as safe as it can be.

From the gear we give to everyone to the guides rowing the boats, safety is always the number one priority. We do our best to keep everyone smiling and to help ease the nerves.

“There is real danger with everything you do, but it’s not quite as extreme as it is perceived a lot of the time. I actually feel safer with a professional watching out for me than I do watching out for myself,” says Michele.


white water rafting safety briefing before rafting kicking horse river

Safety is our top priority, and our team of professional guides spend time with guests to go over river safety before heading on the water.


Although white water rafting might seem a bit intimidating at first for some, it is a sport that is extremely rewarding once those fears are addressed. It’s often those who have the most nerves to begin with who leave with the biggest smile on their face. Because like most things in life, it really is always best to try something new.


White Water Rafting FAQs - Rafting the Kicking Horse River in Golden BC


So, who IS white water rafting for then?


Have you ever wondered if you’re adventurous enough to go whitewater rafting? Have you wondered if you’re young enough, fit enough, athletic enough, experienced enough, a strong enough swimmer? Are you the nervous one who wants to join your group of friends but really don't think you can do it?


Two ladies having lunch while white water rafting in Golden British Columbia

Rafting the Kicking Horse is suitable for all ages and abilities!


Group of friends happy to be white water rafting the Kicking Horse River

With a variety of trips available, there are options for groups of all sizes!


That’s normal. We all question our abilities before trying something new, and having fears is perfectly legitimate. We’ve been there. I'm having flashbacks this very moment to an acceptance speech I had to give a few months ago. Crowds and public speaking are not my thing, but as you can tell, I survived (and it actually wasn't as bad as I had been telling myself it would be).

So - if you’re questioning yourself, I’m here to tell you rafting with Glacier Raft Company is something you can do!


6 couples before white water rafting in Golden BC

Ready to spend a day on the Kicking Horse.


Here’s why there’s no need to be concerned:

The Kicking Horse River is divided into 3 sections – the upper, middle and lower canyons. You can pick and choose the sections that best suit the experience you’re after.

White Water Rafting on the Kicking Horse River Explained


Upper Canyon

The upper canyon is the calmest part of the river. It is a gentle float with a couple of splashy rapids near the start. If some flat water with a bit of splash is what you’re after, that’s awesome. You can end there. As long as you’re at least 4 years old, you’re welcome to join. The upper canyon has you rafting approximately 14 km.

Our trip that rafts the upper canyon only is called the Family Adventure.


Middle Canyon

If you’re craving more adventure, the middle canyon is the next step. It starts with a big section of class 4 whitewater (the highest we can commercially raft) and then it’s non stop class 2 and 3 rapids from there. It rafts roughly 12 km of the Kicking Horse.

(Except at high water - at high water, the middle canyon becomes big, non-stop, continuous class 3 and 4 whitewater. This usually occurs in June and sometimes early July).

Our trip that rafts the middle canyon only is called the White Water Express.

To combine the upper and middle canyons, you'll want to check out White Water Discovery.


Lower Canyon

For the ultimate adventure, the lower canyon is where you want to be when the river is low enough for us to raft it. Only accessible by helicopter, the lower canyon of the Kicking Horse River is famous for a reason. It starts off with a 4 km stretch of continuous class 4 whitewater (amazing!!) and the rapids keep coming. Huge whitewater and a helicopter flight – enough said.

To experience all three sections of the river, take a look at our Ultimate Heli Adventure trip.

To only raft the white water in the middle and lower canyons, Pure Heli White Water is what you're after.

If you’re not sure how adventurous you want to be, just start with the upper canyon. If you’re loving your day and want to go further you can upgrade out on the river. Let your guide know and they’ll make it happen, as long as we still have space available.


A family having lunch while rafting the Kicking Horse River in Golden BC

We have trips for the entire family. Start together and go from there!


If you're not sure where to start, our TRIP SELECTOR is a great tool to help you narrow down the options.

If you have any questions please get in touch. Call us at 1 877 344 7238, email or leave us a comment below.

If you’re ready to commit, you can do that here: BOOK NOW. Give it a try. Otherwise, you'll never know if white water rafting could be your next favourite activity.

We hope to spend time with you on the river soon.

Cheers from Carmen, Ryan and the whole Glacier Crew