Over the last 4 years, I have been traveling fulltime with my family of 14 in our RV. We spend the winters snowboarding and the summers kayaking. We’ve had such a fun time going to so many awesome places all over the country and into Canada. I’ve been to so many cool places from the Ottawa River to the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, GA all the way to the Colorado River and up into Egmont, British Columbia to surf Skookumchuk Narrows. Now, I have a list of the best rivers for kayaking kids like me.
And, since I’m 12, I thought other younger paddlers would like to hear my favorite rivers to run and play spots to surf in Whitewater Kayaks, so I wrote this list of my favorite whitewater rivers on the continent to paddle. I’ll start in order from my absolute favorite first!
This is my favorite river to run ever in my Whitewater Kayak. It has ledges, auto boofs, and really fun rapids, like Diaper Wiper and a 15’ waterfall into a calm pool of water. This waterfall can be run over and over. I ran this for the first time around 650 CFS and it was perfect. I’ve run it a few more times probably at the same level, if not slightly higher. I know that when it goes over 1000 cfs it can get crazy, especially the top drop on the run. My mom swam here her first time down it and ran the rest totally clean. The only hazard at normal, good flows, is the undercut rock at the bottom of Jared’s Knee, but it’s super easy to navigate, so don’t worry too much about that. Definitely my favorite river run in my JK SideKick.
The Ottawa River is super fun too, especially in a playboat! I wish the Ottawa was closer and that camping was easier to find. But, the Ottawa is full of great play spots, and awesome whitewater rapids. It is my favorite river to run in my JK Shooting Star. There are also some fun spots to pull your kayak up onto boulders and seal launch into the river, cliff jump, and play in whirlpools. The water is really warm too, so I go Skin to Wind. Kayaking Kids everwhere will love this river as there is really something for everyone!
Shoshone on the Colorado River
This is my backyard run. It’s a classic Colorado Class III/IV river run that is just so fun at every level. When the levels get above 10,000 cfs it’s insane, the waves become huge and you can’t see over them until you hit the top. I ran it for the first time at 11,000 after the 2015 US Team Trials, in my JK Shooting Star with my family and a ton of my JK teammates. It was huge. I got sucked into a huge hole called Marty’s Diner, lost my paddle and had the hardest swim ever to get to the side. Down river my family got my boat and all was good. No doubt, I was a tiny bit scared, but then I wanted to run it again the next day, so it was more fun than scary. Shoshone is cool because it has guaranteed water all year. We even run it with a bunch of friends who all get together on New Year’s Day. It’s usually freezing, ice is on the river and we all have icicles all over our gear. It’s cool. I think if you paddle in 0 degree weather you get to call yourself a whitewater kid, don’t you?
Short Creek wasn’t always in my top 5 of fun rivers to run. Mostly because I ran it for the first time when Nickelodeon came out to film my family and it didn’t go to well. The water was higher than anyone had thought and I had the worst run ever. First I hit my tooth with my paddle and chipped it, going off the waterfall. It didn’t really hurt, but still, it set the pace for the rest of the run. I swam 3 times, on this one day, on this one run! Once I flipped, rolled up, lost my paddle, went down the wrong side of a slide, backwards, hit the bottom, flipped again and didn’t have a handroll so I bailed. But after this day, I was determined to go back and run it clean and I did, with no chipped teeth and no swims. It’s a really fun river, that’s for sure.
The Ocoee is every kayaking kids favorite river. I love the Ocoee because it can be a different whitewater run every time you run it. You can choose to paddle really easy and take all the sneaks or you can push yourself and run harder lines. I like to take my playboat so I can stop at all the play spots and surf. The only problem with the Ocoee is the rafts. Kenny was slammed by a raft when sitting in an eddy near Broken Nose, Brody was run over in Broken Nose and I was actually totally run over by a raft near the top of TableSaw. I had a really hard time reaching my skirt because I was face down on the bottom of the river. That was probably the scariest thing that’s happened to me on a river because I had no control. But, now I’m really careful of the rafts and don’t go near them at all.