Photo: Rafters paddling on river

Getting wet is part of the fun for rafters and paddlers on the Klamath River in northern California.

Photograph by Tyler Maddox, Maddox Visual

By Kim Brown Seely

Back in 1968, kayaker Jerry Bentley did an exploratory paddle down Oregon’s Rogue River with his wife and kids. He liked it so much he convinced the Sevylor kayak company to sell him sole licensing rights to the bright orange inflatables they had used.

A year later he launched Orange Torpedo Trips. Today his company designs many of its itineraries specifically for families. “We’ll run inflatable kayaks, an oar raft, and a paddle raft,” says general manager Erik Weiseth. “Family members can have different levels of adventure: A spouse who wants a mellower experience can ride in a raft, while still being together.” Most often, Weiseth says, those who start out rafting will want to switch to a kayak, so guides—who often spend the off-season teaching elementary or middle school—always bring extras.

The Klamath is a good entry-level camping trip, suitable for kids ages four and up. Those 12 and older usually paddle their own kayaks (some as young as ten can handle certain stretches of white water). Before starting out, everyone gets a thorough paddling orientation. By the second day even the youngest students feel confident enough to tackle rapids like Class III Devil’s Toenail. “Kids actually do best,” says Weiseth. “They’re lightest, so they go right through the waves.”

Where to Play

Relax in the sun as you float calm waters, then tackle Class II and III rapids with your new torpedo paddling skills. In between rapids, don’t be afraid to get wet. “The water is so warm, it’s like a bathtub,” says Weiseth. Jump right off your raft or pull over to swim in a crystal-clear side creek. Nights are spent on the beach eating hot wings and Dutch oven pizza before climbing into your sleeping bag under the stars.

At Day's End

Play bocce and throw Frisbees on the beach with kids while guides set up camp and cook dinner, then let the kids roast marshmallows as you sit back to sip a fireside cocktail.


2 days; $399 per adult, $349 per child;

Based on articles from National Geographic Adventure and updated by Greer Schott

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