Rafting, Kayaking, Boating & Swimming

4 Secrets to a Successful Yellowstone Rafting Trip

Helpful tips on choosing the right Yellowstone rafting trip, what to bring, how to stay safe and what to wear.

Rafting the Gallatin River with Montana Whitewater
Rafting the Gallatin River with Montana WhitewaterMontana Whitewater

1. Choose the Right Rafting Trip

Rivers are rated from Class I to Class V based on difficulty. Class I and II rivers—perfect for families and beginners—are generally calm with occasional rough water. Class III rivers feature whitewater and perhaps a few small drops, but no considerable danger. Class IV rivers may have whitewater, waves, rocks, and significant drops; precise maneuvering skills are required. Class V rivers are the most challenging, with whitewater, large waves, large rocks, and other hazards. These rivers are thrilling to experience, but demand expertise to navigate safely.

5 Best Whitewater Rafting Trips near Yellowstone

2. Dress Appropriately for Rafting

On hot days, a bathing suit and t-shirt might be all you’ll need for an enjoyable float—but always bring extra layers, just in case. Synthetic fabrics (such as Capilene or polypropylene) are better than cotton (including denim) because cotton loses its insulating powers when wet. On chilly days, a wetsuit will keep you comfortable in the raft. Wear sandals that can be strapped to your feet (you might lose flip-flops in a wave) or sneakers, and don’t forget waterproof sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses. Add a a stretchy strap to secure them to your head.

3. Leave the Camera Behind

Many rafting companies have a photographer on staff and will provide your with an opportunity to purchase these photos.

Though it’s tempting to fill your memory card with shots of the trip, it’s best to keep the camera on dry land. Not only is your camera at high risk of getting soaked, but guides will need your attention totally focused on paddling for the rougher stretches of water.

If you absolutely need personal photos of your rafting trip, use a waterproof camera that you can strap to your vest or helmet and set it to automatically take a photo every few minutes. That way you can concentrate on rafting safely.

4. Make Safety a Focus

Always wear your personal flotation device and follow your guide’s directions. Part of rafting safety is acting as a team in unison under the direction of the captain. Remember that individual pranks or roughhousing puts the safety of the team at risk.