Smith River Rafting

Last weekend, we visited our friends over at Humboldt County, and they took us rafting at the South Fork of the Smith River. We were on the boat, paddling and battling waves and rapids, the entire twelve mile stretch of our trip. It’s a first for me, and thankfully, I had the best people with me the entire time.

South Fork of the Smith River
Floating at the South Fork of the Smith River. © R.E.Dana

Even though I was excited, I was initially scared to go rafting for a couple of reasons:

  1. I do not know how to swim. Yes, it is ironic how I can’t swim considering I came from the Philippines — a country of islands and lots of beaches. It has been a running joke that I will forever be thankful to the person who invented the life vest.
  2. The water is cold. I am plainly not used to bathing in or tinkering with cold water. Surprisingly, when we were rafting, it was all sunny so the water being cold served as a totally refreshing treat. Also, thank goodness for dry suits.
  3. Zero knowledge on rafting. While I love boat rides, I had no idea what it would be like to actually be paddling my way through rocks and waves.


Ryan, the best guide ever!
Ryan, the best guide ever! © R.E.Dana

For those of you who are like me, don’t fret, you just need to do one thing — follow your guide!

Yes, that’s it! You just have to trust your guide. Luckily, we have the best guides, our friends Ryan and Rose, and they both made sure that not only would we have fun, but that we would also be safe. The instructions they gave are clear — they taught me how to paddle forward and backward, to the left and to the right; how to move to the center and dunk just in case the need arises; how to firmly plant myself in the boat so I would not fall; and what to do (more like how they would lift me and take me back to the boat) in case I fall.

We started at Steven’s Point and ended at Craig’s Beach, and within, fearlessly faced two or three rapids that are Class 3 (the rest, maybe a little over ten, are Class 2). We also had a treat of cool-looking plant species, fishes, birds, and occasional human beings waving and saying “hi!”

Cool-looking Darlingtonia. © R.E.Dana
Cool-looking Darlingtonia. © R.E.Dana

It’s hard not to appreciate nature even more when you go rafting for hours, especially with everyone on the boat being environment scientists.

So what did I learn? In rafting, you have to learn to trust and work as a team.

You have to trust your guides that when they say “paddle forward”, you don’t paddle to the left, even if you can see a rock somewhere that would make you want to paddle like that. You just have to trust that people do know more, and that when they guide you, they are doing it for the best of your interest. You have to work as a team, paddle the same way, cause if you don’t, one or all of you could fall.

You also have to just let go. Breathe and just enjoy nature and the experience it brings.

After my first rafting experience, all I can say is waves come and go, rocks and boulders may seem to block you, you would get wet and could even fall, but you just have to keep paddling your way through it all til you reach your goal.

Looking forward to my next.


Photo credit: Rose E. Dana

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