Is River Rafting Dangerous?

June 29, 2022 3 min read

Is river rafting dangerous? Learn more about this activity to know how safe it is. Read on to learn about the risks, safety codes and fatalities of river rafting. Then, plan your next trip with a company that adheres to the highest levels of safety. If you are unsure, consider asking a company representative to demonstrate their safety procedures. You may also want to read up on the local safety code.

River Rafting

There are a number of things to keep in mind when going rafting on a river. It is essential to be aware of all the dangerous points and sections of the river. Studying maps and reference books will help you understand the dangers of rafting on the river. You should also scout the sections on foot to be sure you're moving safely. Always know the group limits and match them to the types of rapids you're planning to tackle.

River Rafting Hazard

One River Rafting hazard to be aware of is uneven river bottoms. When combined with the current, uneven river bottoms pose a significant risk for a swimmer. One square meter of water weighs about 1000 kilograms (2204 lbs) and this can result in a swimmer's feet becoming entrapped in the current. The weight of the water may also push the swimmer's face downward.

River Rafting Fatality Rate

The fatality rate of river rafting is one of the lowest of all adventure sports. Since the sport was commercialized in 1978, there have been fewer than a dozen reported incidents every year. The overall injury rate has been approximately one per 100,000 participants. Injuries are usually minor and are reported immediately. A high injury rate is a sign of reckless behavior. Nevertheless, it is important to note that all river-rafting activities should be undertaken with caution.

River Rafting Safety Code

River rafting safety code is important because even if the rafts are stable, the current can still pin the raft or the skipper into the water. Unless the raft is designed for rapids of Class V or higher, it is difficult to perform rescues. If you fall into the water, follow the same procedures as if you were alone. Here are some safety code provisions to consider.

Keeping a T-grip on a Raft

Keeping a T-grip on the raft is a common mistake when rafting, but there are some simple ways to prevent this fatal mistake. First, do not overestimate your strength. Do not try to hold a cell phone or a camera while on a raft. This will cause you to accidentally hit other paddlers, or worse, get thrown overboard.

Wearing a Life Vest

While the water in the rivers of Durango is warm because of snow melt from the highest peaks of the mountains, the water is still cold, and it's possible to experience hypothermia. The life jackets designed for this type of activity are thick and insulated. They wrap around the body's core for extra warmth, but they're also essential for a comfortable fit. There are two types of life jackets - type II and type III.


Undercuts are a common hazard encountered by rafters, and many people have lost their lives in them. Undercuts occur where river banks are constantly eroded by the river's current, creating a pool in which boats may become entrapped. In some rivers, undercuts can also result from trees toppling into the water and creating strainers. Dimple Rock, another well-known river hazard, can be deadly for rafters.


Sieves, or boulder-choked areas, are common in rivers, but they can pose a serious danger when combined with the current. One square meter of water weighs 1000 kg, or 2204 pounds. The weight of the river can push a swimmer face down. The water's flow can also trap objects and people. If the boat is not secure, the current may pull the raft through a sieve, trapping the swimmer.

In the lower 48, you won't find strainers on rivers. However, in the north, where the rivers are braided, they're not uncommon. If you happen to be rafting in a place where rivers are braided, you may be in a situation where you can't escape a strainer. Luckily, you can do some scouting beforehand to avoid this problem.

Keeping a Paddle on a Raft

Keeping a paddle on a raging river is a common mistake, but there are a few things that you can do to avoid being swept away by the current. Whenever possible, position your legs on the surface of the water and keep calm. During a raft flip, remember the slogan "nose and toes": float on your toes and feet, face downstream. Make sure to keep your arms at your sides. If you can, extend your paddle and pull the victim over to the raft.

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