Kaweah offers a bumpy ride

By Andrea Camarena

Sitting on the edge of an 18 foot raft, my paddle hits a rock and the boat tilts. I'm lifted up and in the next second I'm sinking into the roaring water.

The boat hits a hole, my foot slides out from under its hold position. The rushing water flips me backwards and I'm violently thrown down &#8220The Chair” a class four rapid on the Kaweah River.

I'm dunked under water, spit out and caught in the swift white water current 20 yards behind the raft I was just safely perched on.

This ain't no kiddy ride, but it's a hell of a good time.

Last Sunday, Kaweah Whitewater Adventures treated me to an all-day rafting trip through Three Rivers.

The locally owned and operated company delivers what its name promises: an adventure.

As a first time rafter, I wasn't sure what to expect. I just knew I was in for a soggy ride.

The group met at 9 a.m. at the Cottage Coffee shop in Central Three Rivers where customers were driven up to Gateway Restaurant.

After all the legalities were taken care of, (signing waivers, picking out flotation vests and helmets and hearing the safety and instruction speech) we were ready to shove off.

The large group was split in two and I ended up with six other passengers, the raft guide, Scott and a guide trainee, Haley.

The two rafts stayed close as we launched into the cool Kaweah River and set quickly off into our first Class Three rapid. The rapids are measured on a scale from 1-6 with 6 meaning unnavigable like Niagara Falls and Class 1 being calm water.

As soon as we got in the water, the commands came from our guide seated at the back the raft yelling &#8220Forward.” We were instructed to paddle in sync and to keep rowing until we heard the command &#8220Chill!” We all paddled our way into Pumpkin Hollow a bumpy class three rapid and a chilling inauguration into rafting for me. The rest of the passengers were rafting veterans who were excited to have a newbie on board. I was even given a scare as the raft was pulling away from the shore and another passenger exclaimed, &#8220I'm surprised they put you on the Kaweah for your first rafting trip!”

The recovery time between each set of rapids gave Scott time to instruct us on what to do in case of ejection on the next set of rapids. &#8220Swim to the eddy [an area where water is calm] on the right. But ideally you want to stay in the boat!”

The all-day rafting trip featured 15 sets of Class 3 and 4 rapids and mellowed into a calmer Class 2 area at the bottom section of the Kaweah.

And along the way, the sights were amazing and the rafting was exhilarating.

We tore through rapids named The Chute, the Osterizer, the Rockwall, the Triple Dunk, The Hammer, The Powerhouse and the intimidating, Suicide Falls.

One of the most entertaining points of the trip was watching as the second raft full of grown men tossed its passengers out like rag dolls on the Class 4 rapids. Later in the day, the second raft fell to the wrath of the upper and lower Slicky. After Scott cleanly guided our boat through the tricky Class 4 rapids, we stopped and waited for the second raft to come through the technical area.

We watched with wide eyes as the raft hit a boulder, sank into a hole and capsized.

All nine passengers had to find their way out from under the raft and swim to shore or float downriver a little ways to be picked up by our raft.

No one was hurt and everyone left with a great rafting story to tell.

The trip was made even more exciting when our guide showed us how to paddle upstream to surf the rapids and how to ride the rapids High Side (with one side of the raft up in the air and the other under water).

The trip featured areas where we were able to get out and swim (or in my case, Scott pushed me out of the raft), or ride down a rock waterslide.

The trip also included lunch at a riverside restaurant.

Kaweah Whitewater Adventures also offered interesting facts given by Scott throughout the ride. The five-year veteran of the river informed us that we were floating past the house of the inventor of Hawaiian Punch and told stories of the time William Shatner took a ride down the river, fell out and came on board sans shorts.

The ride ended mid afternoon and we came on shore just before hitting Kaweah Lake.

It was a fulfilling day and left me eager to come back for another adventure down the Kaweah.

- Kaweah Whitewater Adventures in Three Rivers. 561-1000. Full day ride: $130. Half day ride: $80. Three-hour trip: $50

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