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Rafting season begins, thrill-seekers delight

It's an amazing rush to conquer the rapids of California's many rivers, so it's no surprise that rafters are chomping at the bit to get started. Latest projections are that most rivers will be running in April, some in May. The season starts wrapping up in July on some rivers, while others go all the way until October.

There are dozens of river raft companies offering trips on 10 or so more popular rivers stretching up and down the northern two-thirds of the state. These companies have put together a diverse menu of trips that are designed to match the various skill levels and physical capabilities of the participants. There is everything from a half-day family float down a calm Class 1 or Class 2 river to extended overnight camping trips along Class 5 rivers where white-knuckle rapids are suitable only for the most adventurous.

The outfitters say that river rafting does not necessarily have to be a physical challenge, although the higher class rivers require more strength and endurance. Age really isn't a factor either, as people in their 60's routinely raft Class 4's and above.

Generally, families with children are encouraged to choose Class 1 and 2 rivers such as the Lower Middle Fork of the American River, or Class 3 rivers such as the South Fork of the American, which happens to be the most popular whitewater river in the state. There is a fair leap from Class 3 to Class 4”people rarely fall out of the boat on a Class 3, while it occurs much more often on a Class 4. Of course, even if you do fall out, you're fitted with a high-quality flotation device and guides are trained to quickly pluck you from the water.
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