FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Our list of frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) covers a variety of topics. If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, please send us a note or call 877.426.7238.
Q: DO YOU NEED EXPERIENCE TO GO ON A WHITEWATER RAFTING TRIP OR CAN YOU TAKE BEGINNERS?
A: The wonderful thing about rafting with an outfitter is that you do not need any experience. When joining a whitewater rafting trip with Winding Waters, guests are at ease knowing we have trained, professional guides who know the river. The level of difficulty of a river is based on the character of its whitewater rapids. The Salmon River has class III-IV whitewater and is a pool and drop, stair-step river. Stair-stepping means there will be a pool, then a drop where we find our rapids. We have taken many novices down this river and they have felt very safe in our hands. In fact, this is the main river we recommend for families with small children.
Q: WHAT ARE THE YOUNGEST AGES YOU TAKE ON YOUR TRIPS?
A: On the Grande Ronde and Salmon Rivers, we take children 5 years old and up. On the Snake River in Hells Canyon, we take children 7 and up. We have child-sized US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFD’s). We’re happy to consult with parents about any specific questions.
Q: CAN WE CHARTER A PRIVATE TRIP? IF SO, WHAT ARE THE DETAILS?
A: A very popular trip option, we are glad to offer private charter trips to groups of 15 or more on any of our rivers. A charter trip means that your group makes up all of the trip’s participants. Securing an entire launch is at a premium and can take a year or two of advanced planning to ensure the date you want. We do not sell that trip departure to any outside guests. Learn more about our private charters here or give us a call to start planning: 877.426.7238.
Q: CAN YOU ADVISE US ON TIPPING/GRATUITIES?
A: We treat our tipping discussion with great care. Our guide crew will work very hard to make your vacation the best it can be. If you wish to tip, we recommend treating it like a restaurant (anywhere from 10-15% of your trip cost for the crew). You can either give your lead guide cash at the end of the trip or put it on your credit card. The gratuities will then be distributed among the guide crew. Give us a call if you wish to discuss further. And please know tips are not expected.
Q: IS YOUR CREW VACCINATED FOR COVID-19 AND DO YOU REQUIRE VACCINATION FOR ALL ELIGIBLE TRAVELERS?
A: Yes, we require anyone working in our business to be vaccinated, including crew, shuttle drivers, etc.. We also require all eligible travelers to be fully vaccinated. We ask that children unable to get vaccinated lay low in their contact with people 2 weeks before the trip. Anyone displaying any COVID-19 symptoms will be asked not to travel with us.
Q: WHAT TYPES OF BOATS DO YOU USE ON YOUR TRIPS?
A: We typically use 4 different types of boats on our trips, depending on the river. On the Salmon and Grande Ronde Rivers, we use oar boats, paddle rafts, inflatable kayaks, and generally stand-up paddle boards (depending on flows). On the Snake River in Hells Canyon, we use oar boats, paddle rafts, and inflatable kayaks. On an oar boat, a guide rows the boat while you enjoy the scenery. In a paddle raft you are an active participant in paddling with others and a guide. An inflatable kayak is a single boat where you guide yourself with instruction if needed. A stand-up paddle board is basically a large surf board with a paddle.
Q: WHAT EQUIPMENT AND SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE?
A: We provide the following equipment and services beyond guiding boats on every trip. Additionally, visit this page for an idea of “A Day in the Life” of being on the river.
1. Paddle (if you’re on a paddle boat), PFD (life jacket), and helmet (for those riding in inflatable kayaks or stand-up paddle boards).
2. Camp chairs and tables
3. Shade wings in camp
4. Tents: We provide roomy 4 person tents (for 2 people) and have tent sizes for up to 5 people. But the real joy is sleeping under the stars…
5. Cots (Here are some videos on assembling tents & cots)
6. Meals are prepared in our complete camp kitchen and you will dine at tables with tablecloths, chairs, plates, silverware, and napkins. We take care of all aspects of food prep, from cooking to dish clean-up.
Q: WHAT TYPE OF SLEEPING BAG DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR MY TRIP?
A: For summer trips, we recommend a 30F degree bag. For shoulder season trips (spring & fall), we recommend a 10F degree bag. a good place to shop for your bag is REI: https://www.rei.com/c/sleeping-bags-and-accessories.
Q: WHAT KIND OF CLOTHING SHOULD I WEAR/BRING?
A: Visit our Packing List for a complete list of items to bring. During the day, quick drying shorts and tops work best. For your feet, synthetic sandals like Chacos work great that have straps to hold them to your feet. We do not recommend flip-flops. In the evenings and mornings, we recommend warmer layers, including a fleece/synthetic fill jacket, pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes (like tennis shoes). You can purchase river shirts, river hats, sunblock, sunglasses, and other items in our Boathouse Shop prior to your trip.
Q: CAN WE FISH ON YOUR TRIPS?
A: Yes, our rivers are good fisheries. The Snake River in Hells Canyon is an excellent fishery for Rainbow Trout, White Sturgeon, and Smallmouth Bass. The Salmon River is a good Smallmouth Bass fishery. And the Grande Ronde River is a wonderful Rainbow Trout and Steelhead fishery. We can throw in fishing gear for while we’re floating, as long as it does not interfere with the group traveling in a timely manner down the river. We recommend an Oregon fishing license for Grande Ronde and Hells Canyon trips. For Salmon River trips, you’ll need an Idaho license. Please purchase either of these online prior to your trip.
Q: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT BATHROOMS WHILE WE’RE ON THE RIVER?
A: We have you covered. We follow “Leave No Trace” minimum impact camping and traveling etiquette on all river trips. The bathroom facility we use is called the River Bank Toilet System (a.k.a, the Groover). When in camp, we set up the toilet in a separate, private area, complete with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Please visit a few of our blog posts where we discuss our bathroom system in detail, including our fun vernacular we have developed around going to the bathroom outdoors.
–The Groover Explained
–Peeing while on the River
–Peeing at Night while on a River Trip: if you’re more comfortable having a small urine container in your tent at night vs going to the river or the river bathroom, then we recommend purchasing an Awoken container.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE REGARDING BATTERIES FOR CAMERA EQUIPMENT & KEEPING CAMERA EQUIPMENT DRY?
A: If you want to bring your portable video camera and/or digital camera, but are concerned about batteries running out, you have 2 options. One, bring extra batteries (at least 2 more than you think you’ll need). Two, bring a portable solar-powered battery recharger. They do exist and we’re pleased to report- they do work! As for keeping your electronic equipment dry, we provide small dry bags that stay with you on the boat during the day. We also sell small hard-shell, water-tight, and padded Pelican cases in our Boathouse Shop.
Q: WHAT KIND OF WEATHER & WATER TEMPERATURES SHOULD WE EXPECT ON OUR TRIP?
A: Visit our Weather & Water Page for information on air temperature and water flows for different times in the year on each of our rivers.
Q: DO I NEED TO BE A STRONG SWIMMER TO COME ON YOUR TRIPS? WHAT IF ONE OR MORE IN MY GROUP DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SWIM?
A: You do not need to be a strong swimmer, or even know how to swim to enjoy a river trip with Winding Waters River Expeditions. All participants are required to wear a US Coast Guard-approved PFD, or personal floatation device (back in the old days, we called ’em Life Jackets). These high buoyancy jackets are designed to keep your head above water should you find yourself having an out of boat experience. Now, that said, if you do not know how to swim and you are afraid of water – river rafting is probably not going to be your cup of tea. Small children (ages 5-10) typically aren’t good developed swimmers, yet they love our trips. We have child-sized PFD’s and look after our smallest guests with great zest and joy.