6 Things Only People Who Have Been on a River Trip Will Understand

If you’ve ever spent a few days floating down a scenic river canyon and camping under the stars, you’ll probably nod your head knowingly to everything below. If not, then hopefully you’ll see why so many of us get hooked on river trips.

6 Things Only Someone Who Has Been on a River Trip Will Understand

The world keeps spinning without WiFi

It’s tough for many of us to unplug for a few hours, let alone multiple days. But the secret river runners know? The world keeps spinning without cell service and WiFi. And while it may be intimidating to step away from work (55% of Americans don’t take all of their vacation days) and other real-world commitments, people who’ve spent time on the river know that life will still be there when they return. They take time to read a book uninterrupted, eat meals with family, play in the water, appreciate nature and sleep a solid eight hours per night. They also know when they return they’ll be well-rested and ready to take on their e-mail inbox again.

6 a.m. is not that early

Inevitably, when I discuss what time we’ll wake up for breakfast on the river, people respond with disbelief. 6:30 a.m.? On vacation? Only someone who has been on a river trip knows why it’s so difficult to sleep past 7 a.m. The birds and guides wake up by 5:30 a.m., and the sun hits your tent by 6:15 a.m. But they also know this isn’t a bad thing, of course, because when someone else is making the coffee, watching the river canyon wake up shouldn’t be missed.

6 Things Only Someone Who Has Been on a River Trip Will Understand

Food tastes better outdoors

Whether it’s a deli sandwich or a filet mignon, meals taste better with a hearty infusion of fresh air. I can’t count the number of times I’ve given out our special chicken curry salad river recipe, knowing that at home it will taste all right, but not nearly as satisfying as after a big morning of whitewater and paddling.

The groover is not as scary as it sounds  

The toilet system on a river trip can be intimidating, to say the least. A seasoned paddler knows that the groover is just another part of camp, and definitely not as smelly or dirty as it sounds. River runners have spent decades perfecting the river “bathroom” and know that the alternative—beaches covered in toilet paper and hidden “land mines”—would be a lot worse.

6 Things Only Someone Who Has Been on a River Trip Will Understand

Rollercoasters have nothing on whitewater

People who’ve been on a river trip know the best rollercoaster ride isn’t found in an amusement park. Whether you’re in an inflatable kayak, classic dory or wave-punching paddle raft, splashing through whitewater always gets your heart pumping. Even guides who navigate the same river week after week will tell you it never gets boring. Best yet, there are no crowds.

Rivers change you

There is something indescribable that happens when you spend time on the river. That water-rushing-over-rocks sound gets into your bones. Those tense muscles in your shoulders relax. You smile more. You sleep more deeply. When you get in tune with life on the river, everything else fades away. You’re able to disconnect from your daily life, live in the moment, and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones in ways that only being in the wild can inspire.

  • Micki Fields

    Been on a few local rivers, never yet a multi day expedition but I know one thing beyond doubt. The river has it’s own agenda, it’s own pace and way. Best to toss your expectations aside and go with the flow and respond to it with everything you have.

    • Maureen Scheuer

      Totally agree!

  • Maureen Scheuer


  • Tony Loro

    Guides Guide to the Guides Guide.
    1. Laugh a lot. Have jokes and stories for Class II
    2. Always have 3 toss bags.
    3. Always have the best sleeping pad.
    4. NEVER loan your sleeping bag.
    5. If you Chef, never let others buy the food.
    6. Over Class III Never keep flinchers in the bow.
    7. Pack symmetrical and always tie your own knots.
    8. Cop trips sound bad but they are trained to do whatever the leader (that’s you) tells them to do. For a big tip, swim the Lt.
    9. Never take a bloater rig (300 lb peep) on ClassV.
    10. Have a pair of bodysurfing fins on ClassV. Wear as needed.

    • Bill Senger

      If anybody steps into your boat wearing leather wingtips or high-heeled Tommy Chus, throw your shoulder against the nearest boulder immediately! Trust me, you will be be better off missing that trip.

      • Tony Loro

        I would never sacrifice myself. Oar boat for him.

    • Sofi Krinbill

      Let kids “titanic fly” through class IV please! Hooked me for life 🙂

  • Ellen-Sue Diamant


  • Some of the best sleeps of my life were spent under the stars on a paco pad. (sorry about the snoring fellow rafters)