Whitewater River RaftingNews & Blog

California Rafting with Children & Teens

California Rafting with children is something we do very well. There are many wonderful, scenic river rafting trips in California suitable for children as young as 4 years old. Tributary offers half-day rafting trips, where you can bring your own picnic lunch, as well as multi-day overnight trips that include meals and camping for a memorable family rafting vacation.

A great way to experience multi-day rafting trips is on our Half off American River 2 Day Trips where on weekday trips, kids under 18 are 50% off (some restrictions apply). Child friendly meals are provided and prepared by your river guides.

We have a variety of raft trips suitable for kids in the Gold Country (near Sacramento and Lake Tahoe) from April-September. Further north in the Shasta-Trinity and Klamath National Forests (near the Redwoods) multi-day trips are also available in the summer.

Group discounts are available for rafting groups of 6 or more. Tributary caters to many Scout groups and youth groups please contact us for larger groups, we are happy to help you along with every step of the process!

Children’s capabilities vary considerably and we will be glad to discuss this to ensure the best possible family rafting experience. Our minimum age limit recommendations at normal summer flows are:

  • 4 years old on Class 2 rivers
  • 7 years on Class 3 rivers
  • 14 years and strong swimming abilities on Class 4 rivers

During high water due to the melting of an above average snow pack, then you may need to take a step down in the Class during that time frame. High water conditions normally will be over by July & August. Call us if you are unsure if those conditions exist. 

California Rafting with children – young or more timid child:

See below and also check out Easiest Rafting Options page.

Try a brief introduction on a half-day, Class 2 rafting run on the Lower Middle Fork American River. A scenic wilderness raft trip in the Gold Country. Enjoy side hikes, blackberries, and wildlife if the time is right. Add an inflatable kayak for more diverse groups.

During June high water this season, we sometimes offer the very scenic Class 2+ Lower North Fork American. A semi-wilderness trip within the Auburn State Recreation Area. 

The East Fork Carson River, close to South Lake Tahoe, is another Class 2 rafting trip for 1-2 days. It offers wonderful hot springs, wilderness camping and unique High Sierra scenery. In a really good snow-pack year it can be rafted into July. 

The 3 Day Lower Klamath River Trip in N. California both provide Class 2 and 3 river sections, which are easy to accommodate the younger child (portage/walk around options available). This is a unique trip that is a must do, we keep groups small to provide a personalized experience. 

Family Rafting and Youth Group rafting with youths from 7-8 years:

See below and also check out Easy Beginner Rafting Options page. If you have older kids who are on the timid side, then please consider the Easiest Rafting Options for their first trip. 

The South Fork American River, located in the historic Gold Country, is one of the most popular rivers in the state. It provides an excellent first time raft trip, with options from half-day to 2+ days.

Near Lake Tahoe and Reno, a fun, ½ day guided whitewater run on the Truckee River is usually available from early-May through September.

The Trinity River  in N. California both flow throughout the summer and can be combined with other great recreation in the area, to make a complete family vacation.

California Rafting with adventurous teenagers:

See below and also check out Intermediate-Adventurous Rafting Options page.

A combination overnight raft trip on the American River is a great choice for those who are adventurous beginners. You get 1-2 days on the South Fork American, then finish with the excitement of Class 4 rapids on the last day. In the spring, choose the South/North Fork American River Combo, and the South/Middle American River Combo runs all summer into September.

The Middle Fork American River is a good choice for the more athletic youth and return rafters. This 17 mile river trip provides Class 3-4 rapids throughout the summer. For a great wilderness camping experience we offer 2-3 days in this canyon. Enjoy side hikes up shaded creeks, plunge pools, waterfalls, and great fishing.

The North Fork Yuba River is available in the spring and sometimes into summer for older and experienced youths. This is a very scenic, uncrowded Class 4 river trip, not far from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The Yuba River area also offers great scenery, hiking, mountain biking and rustic, historic towns.