What about Kids?

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What about Kids?

Yes, what about them?

Grand Canyon National Park has no age restrictions for river runners. Children will need a Class III or V life jacket, just like the grown-ups, and you’ll need a child sized spare jacket. All ages of children, from babies to teens, have made the journey.

Parents who camp out with their children may find their kids adapt easily to being out of doors day and night, and spending a few weeks out of doors with children can add immensely to the education of children and adults. Trying a shorter stretch of river like the San Juan, while not a requirement, can help prepare kids for the Grand Canyon river trip.

While individual kids have traveled as an only kid on river trips, traveling with a few young ones can work well too, and depending on the individuals, may be better.

There are downsides of course. One is that when traveling with children under ten or so, the heavy lifting camp chores like cooking, loading and unloading the boats will need to be shared by a smaller number of trip participants. Making sure all trip participants are eager to travel with small ones through Grand Canyon will be a good pre-trip discussion. Someone will need to make sure the young ones are drinking enough water, along with using sun screen and lotion to keep their fingers and heels from cracking. While most of the large rapids can be walked around like Lava, Granite, Bedrock and Upset, it is very very hard to walk around Sockdolager and Grapevine. And, on the rapids you can walk around, the walking is not always easy, nor is it assured the boats can (or will) make the pull-in at the bottom of the rapids.

The upsides are many! Wilderness travel, where elders teach the juniors about teamwork, looking out for others, and how to row a raft/kayak/dory, is powerful. The empowerment and self-worth a child can gain from participating in a river trip are immense.

Would you let your thirteen year old daughter participate in a Grand Canyon river trip without you? This very question was faced by Anne when her daughter Kate had the opportunity to join friends on a do-it-yourself Canyon trip. After the trip, Anne wrote:

I just thought I'd send a few of the highlights of Kate's trip, as I have heard them bit by bit over the past 2 weeks. Here goes:

She fell in at Hance, seems nearly everyone fell in at some point.

The heat was unbelievable, especially at Phantom Ranch...approaching 123 degrees!

Little Colorado was amazing.

There was a hike that she took where she had to wade through ponds of scum infested water and it was a bit dangerous and she used ropes and she loved it.

They made a shadow theater somewhere on the rocks.

Someone had a drum set, another person had a guitar and another a melodica...so there was music throughout the journey.

There was a storm and it hailed...even as it was ungodly hot.

She paddled a class 5 rapid herself.

They encountered a raft filled with people that they came to realize were naked... it was a floating nudist colony.

Great food, good company....

My friend (who has done lot-o-outdoor stuff) swears that this was the most strenuous adventure he has ever had...I guess it is just a bit unrelenting--paddling, setting up, cooking (not a hell of a lot of time for a beer) and starting over again. He was also busy keeping my daughter safe.

Anyway, that's about what I know. I've probably recounted a very typical trip down the Grand. She knows that it was a great experience and so do I. I am so happy that we let her go!!!!

Kate in the Canyon.jpg

Kate on her very first Grand Canyon river trip.

Here are a few other kids who went into Grand Canyon at an early age:

Priscilla Ratican was just fifteen when her mother let her travel through the Grand Canyon with her uncle in 1957. The river crested at 126,000 cubic feet per second on the second day of the trip, and Priss is the youngest female to have boated on the highest water in Grand Canyon. On that trip was a school teacher named Ruth. Priss was so inspired by Ruth that she became a school teacher and taught her entire adult career. Their story is chronicled in the book Big Water, Little Boats.

Priss 1957.jpg

Priss takes a photo of the grown-ups.

This photo used with permission, copyright Joe Szep Collection

Natalie Mortenson, a fourth generation do-it-yourself river runner, was just nine when she traveled through Grand Canyon with her dad and granddad on a cold winter trip in 2011. Now at a ripe old age of twelve, Natalie has been twice all the way from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead, and is working on her kayak roll.

Natalie on the oars.jpg

This photo used with permission, copyright Cindy McDonald

Click here to return to The Pre-Trip Planning page.