Captain of the Kid’s Boat


Come one, come all!  ALL ABOARD THE KID’S BOAT!!!!   

Between my siblings, and all my cousins I was the youngest in my family. This meant that as the holidays approached,  the kids’ table was home base for me. You know, the one that the adults pull out of the cedar closet during Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. The table surrounded by mismatched chairs from various rooms in the house. It usually comes equipped with paper napkins, paper plates, and if you’re lucky, a real metal utensil.  Meanwhile, at the prestigious “adult table” they have fancy rolled napkins, mom’s best china, and four different utensils all in the “right” spot on the table. I never minded being pushed to go sit at the kids’ table. Adulting seemed overrated anyway…. still does to this day. As I got older, I decided it was time for me to make a star appearance at the ‘Adult’ table for the first time ever in my childhood career. I asked my mom, got permission, and finally, had MADE IT, or so I thought. While Aunt Debbie’s sailor’s mouth and Uncle Jimmy’s x-rated jokes did create a modern family type situation, I retreated back to the kid’s table. It’s in my blood, it’s in my imagination, heck, it’s in the company!

The experience served me well when I became a whitewater raft guide. I’ll shamelessly be the first guide to yell out, loud and proud, claiming “KIDS BOAT!”  The giddiness that comes from kids setting their eyes on the big bouncy blue rafts for the first time never gets old. Watching it all through the innocent eyes of a child reminds one to throw caution to the wind and wear our hearts on our sleeves for all the world to see.

Between the sparkling water, the canyon walls that change colors throughout the day, and the history of dinosaurs, there’s just so much to be curious about, so many questions to ask, and oh so many moments to live in. You see something light up in guests’  eyes, as if maybe this raft trip is the exact thing they’ve been missing in their life recently. We push off shore and start floating, and this is where the Kids’ Boat really shines. The real conversations begin when you start floating down a river with a bunch of 8 year olds, avoiding the small talk and jumping straight into the juicy discussions that you had no way of foreseeing. You may begin discussing the more serious stuff, such as why dinosaurs don’t live here anymore, and if they will ever come back, and what about the other endangered species that we are surrounded by, and what kind of noises do they make, which will then turn into every person on  the 16 foot raft acting and projecting their voices to sound like dinosaurs. You then digress, and start discussing the REALLY serious topics like whether or not Raft Guide, Javier ACTUALLY has super powers, or whether or not the river tastes like chocolate milk.

I’m not totally sure what the combination of magic is, but I reckon that a key part of it is because they’ve been stripped away of the mainland technology, business,  stressors and that omnipresent social image that needs to be maintained . They’ve been granted the space to wander and wonder around the wilderness playground they’ve just been introduced to. When you wipe away these distractions, we do our brains a favor, and start thinking and acting differently. You, yourself, will notice your child may be carrying a new persona around with them. A persona that you’ve never seen before, something that starts creating an unknown curiosity in YOU about the magic you are surrounded by. I’ve seen it before, where parents and their kids form deeper bonds and see each other in a new light within those canyon walls. In fact, by day three on the river trip, I’ve seen moms turn into Australian accented alligator fighters, Dads start making up games that nobody has ever heard of, and Grandmas are doing massive cannon balls off the raft. As for the kids, well, they’re just excited that for the first time in a long time, EVERYONE, no matter the age or title that they wear in the outside world is reverting back to their old way of kidDOM!

By the end of the day on the river, you will have had countless big belly-aching laughs,  more water gun fights than you thought were humanly possible, and most importantly, you yourself,  feel like a kid again. It never fails. It’s a combination of the discussions you have, the hypotheticals you come up with, the “what if’s”, and “can we’s”  that are shared during your time with younger generations on the river. It’s a fascinating time for everyone involved to witness the Kid’s Boat in action, and will sprinkle the entire trip with a bit of magic that is untouchable anywhere else in the world. This is why, I, Captain of the Kids’ Boat, invite you, and your little ones to join us on the mighty Yampa and Green River this summer and grant your brain time to wonder, and your eyes time to wander through the places they’ve never been before.

** note, kids must be at least  7 years old or 50lb. to come on an Adrift Multi Day Trip.

P.S, Not every guide can confidently claim the kids boat, it  takes a great deal of responsibility to manage the sometime imbalanced equation of safety, sternness, and trickery mixed with  goofiness, shenanigans, and hysteria!

  • Annie Westbury