11 Lessons Learned on a Wild River Ride

We spent our family reunion last week on the banks of Colorado’s Arkansas River. Each time rafters passed by, we’d hoot and holler from our deck. My brother Eric, the photographer, captured the action. And there was lots of it. Water is flowing faster this year than it has in decades with thrills and spills aplenty.

Eric Schickler Photography Arkansas River Rafting

(Photo Credit: Eric Schickler Photography)

Yep, I’ve braved that mighty river before. As a member of a Mature Active Women’s group (MAW’s) we set off one day on a river rafting adventure. Lining up and signing in we asked for a Class 1 experience. (They called this the Granny Tour.)

It started quite tame. There’s nothing more beautiful than rafting calm water with picturesque canyons looming above you. There were seven of us snuggled together including a young teen and her Dad. That girl complained from start to finish – loudly and often.

But it didn’t take long before we were too busy to notice. Our calm float had quickly turned into a churning rapid. Our guide yelled commands. We plunged our paddles and battled the waves. It was thrilling. It was fast. We got wet.

Then everything changed. Our craft shoved itself up on the back of a boulder and the force of the water threatened to topple us.

“Get out on the rock,” yelled our guide. “One at a time. Hurry up!”

Considering the alternative, it seemed smarter to be stranded with a whiny teenager. So out we climbed as water pummeled the raft and our guide tried to keep it from flipping. We huddled close together on that rock and wondered, what now?

A passing raft saw our plight and shouted they could pick someone up. We all looked at the girl but she wouldn’t budge.

We attracted quite an audience. Passing cars tooted and waved. People gathered along the road. Fellow rafters promised to send help. It was humorous and a little humiliating. How would this play in the papers? “Mature Active Women Stranded in Class One Water. Rescue Required.”

Finally help arrived. They told us to keep our feet up and pointed downstream. Then they threw us a rope and advised, “Let the current carry you to the side.”

Guess who went first? Nope, she still wouldn’t budge.

That water was cold! And the current more forceful than I’d expected. But we powered on through it like mountain mamas in an episode of Extreme Outdoors.

In the end, we did lay claim to a successful ride back on the bus to our cars.

And we learned a lot from our unexpected adventure. In business or life:

  1. Sometimes it’s better to bail than be tossed in the drink
  2. Rapids look rougher from down in the boat than up on the road
  3. Skill and experience won’t prevent every mishap
  4. Negativity can ruin everyone’s ride
  5. When you’re in the rapids, you’re bound to get wet
  6. Few will ever raft the same water
  7. Don’t fight the current – let it lead you gradually to shore
  8. Wear a life vest and helmet no matter how calm things appear
  9. You can’t always see what lies beneath
  10. A guide will know when to abandon ship
  11. And finally, screen out whiners before you get in the boat!


  1. What an exciting read. Congrats! Always lessons to learn. Thanks for sharing.