When I was planning our trip to Oregon, I turned to fellow Family Travel Blogger and Oregon resident, Amy Whitley of Pit Stops for Kids, for recommendations. I specifically asked for quintessential Oregon experiences. Amy thought we should experience the outdoors in the High Desert region and specifically recommended rafting on the Deschutes River near Bend, so when I contacted Travel Oregon to plan our itinerary, I requested a rafting excursion. Travel Oregon made arrangements with Sun Country Tours who offered complimentary admission for me as a member of the media. Travel Oregon split the cost with me for the rest of my family which was much appreciated.
I was impressed with how hard Sun Country Tours worked to ensure everyone had a good experience, and that started even before we arrived in Oregon. They sent an email with helpful information to prepare for our excursion including what to bring, what to wear, and when to arrive. One item not included on the list, but sold in their store, was a strap for my kids’ glasses so they wouldn’t fall off. My kids have a knack for losing and breaking their glasses, especially while traveling, so straps were a good investment. Sun Country also rents splash suits that fit over your own clothing, if you’d like to minimize wetness.
Sun Country has rafting trips that vary in length from a few hours to a full day. We took the shortest trip, the Big Eddy Thriller. A bus picked us up at their shop and took us to the river where they divided everyone into groups of 5-10 people and assigned each group a guide. We got paired with a woman and her daughter who was about the same age as my kids. Our guide Pat was excellent and did everything possible to make sure the kids had fun.
By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken by a photographer with Sun Country Tours. (I didn’t think that bringing my non-waterproof camera along was a good idea.) As soon as we got into the river, he gave us instructions for how to paddle and how to anchor our feet so that we didn’t fall out of the raft in the rapids. Whitewater rapids are classified by difficulty using an international scale. The first set of rapids we encountered were gentle (Class I or II), so to make it more interesting, Pat instructed us to paddle around in a circle as we went through the rapids. Following the first set of rapids was a series of Class III (Difficult) rapids, so just upstream of the rapids, we pulled to the side to observe the rapids from shore.
Pat volunteered our group to go first. My two older children volunteered to sit in the front right and left, the wettest positions. Pat told them it was very important that they not stop paddling through the rapids. My youngest didn’t have to paddle. Her job was to hold on. I think that showing you is better than telling you about our first set of Class III rapids.
After we made it through this set of rapids, Pat instructed us to pull over into a safety eddy on the side of the river. From there, we watched the other rafts go through the rapids. In case anyone fell out of one of the rafts, we were to provide assistance. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and so we just watched. It was fun to watch the other groups. After the last group went through, we followed through the remaining sets of rapids.
After the other Class III rapids, there was a quiet section of the river. Pat asked the kids if they wanted to get out and swim or play a game. They picked the game. He started with my youngest daughter and had her stand on the front of the raft. The rest of us paddled the raft in a circle as fast as we could until she couldn’t maintain her balance any longer and fell out. The other kids tried it too and all of them swam in the river for a while. The remaining rapids were more gentle, so Pat created some variations to make it fun. My middle daughter sat on the front of the raft and my youngest daughter stood up for the next set. For the final set, everyone in the boat stood up.
Our time in the water lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, but with transportation and logistics, the entire outing lasted three hours. It was enough time to get a taste of whitewater rafting, but we still had plenty of time left in the day for other activities. All of us had a great time and I would definitely recommend Sun Country Tours. Rafting is recommended for kids ages 6 and up.
Ready to visit?
Sun Country Tours
531 SW 13th Street
Bend, OR 97702
This attraction appears in my e-book, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.