Taking Kids River Rafting: An Interview with a Guide

11 Mar Taking Kids River Rafting: An Interview with a Guide

Codye Reynolds’ love affair with rivers began when her father bought a used raft from an ad in a newspaper when she was 12 years old. She got into the driver’s seat one lazy summer on the San Juan River in southern Utah and never really got out. A few years later, at 18, the Durango, Colorado, native earned a guide license.

Codye Reynolds: Rafting Guide

Four years after that, she added a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism to her resume too. Her mother (lovingly, and with only a little sarcasm) refers to her as “my college-educated river guide”. When she’s not guiding, Codye is an aspiring freelance writer who also does occasional coffee shop gigs. “I can sling a deliciously exquisite espresso,” she jokes. Talking to her, it’s immediately obvious that her love of working with people is surpassed only by her love of the outdoors.

What is your favorite river to guide families on? Why?
It’s a tie between the Yampa and the Main Salmon. Both rivers are free-flowing, so if the snow pack was 110 percent of average the winter before, there will be a lot of water. If not, then there is a whole new set of challenges.

The Yampa is terrific for families because it has plenty of gentle rapids and a couple of bigger, more exciting ones. The Yampa trip runs 4 or 5 days and is desert-hot. Luckily the cool and refreshing river is never too far off. I love the Yampa also for the pictographs and granaries that are typical of backcountry Southwest.

The Main Salmon is a stunning 6-day trip and has plentiful hiking from nearly every camp. The thick and prevalent Ponderosa pine forests lend to more shady hiking than the Yampa. There is usually a lot of water on this river and that makes for some terrific camp-side swimming and fishing.

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What do you like most about your work?
I like getting away from ringing cell phones, honking trucks, barking dogs, and persistent car bills. I also really like watching other people get away from these things. We oftentimes don’t realize how our stuff can own us until the cords are cut.

When we return to a simpler day of getting up, eating, packing, moving downstream, having a little fun, setting up our homes again and watching the day fade into night, there is time for being with oneself. I never miss my email, television, or credit cards when I’m out in the Frank Church Wilderness.

Any advice for first-time rafters?
Be open to everything. Go on the suggested waterfall hikes. Look at pictographs. Play tug-of-war. Ask a lot of questions. Be inquisitive. Allow the wildness to get in your bones. When I tell you the Ponderosa smells just like butterscotch, trust me, and put your nose in the bark. It smells unbelievably sweet.

Can you tell us about a memorable guest or experience?
One afternoon at camp, a 9-year old girl found a footprint in the sand behind her tent. Together, we went to the metal box that we take on all trips, labeled “library,” and took out a book on tracks. We spent the rest of the afternoon scouring around the camp for footprints and scat.

Later, I heard her explaining to her mother that the print was probably muskrat, as it was too small and didn’t have enough webbing to be a beaver. She was a future naturalist in the making. Or maybe a living-out-of-her-car bum river guide. Either way it was good.

Do you want to introduce your own kids to the thrill and magic of river rafting? Adventure Collection member O.A.R.S. is one of the world’s pre-eminent white water rafting and sea kayaking companies. They offer a wide range family-friendly rafting option across North America and the world.

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Jamie Pearson
Jamie Pearson is a freelance writer, a mother of two, and the publisher of the independent family travel blog Travel Savvy Mom. She regularly writes about family travel for Vail Resorts and Homewood Suites, and her dispatches have also appeared on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel Blog and on Fodors.com.
Jamie Pearson

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