Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting located in Port Jervis, offers excursions...

Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting located in Port Jervis, offers excursions on the Delaware River.  Credit: Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting

Though whitewater rafting through the rapids can conjure visions of Meryl Streep’s daring journey in the roiling waters in the 1994 film “The River Wild,” trips along the Upper Delaware River in New York’s Catskills region are, by comparison, relatively tame and suitable for beginner rafters.

Most of the Upper Delaware River’s rapids are rated class 1 and 2, except Skinner’s Falls (rated 3), out of 1 through 6, with 6 being the most dangerous and virtually unnavigable.

When the water is high from excessive rain or on reservoir release days, the water gets a little wilder.

“Sometimes the reservoirs will get so full, they have to release more, but New York City tries to hold as much water as they can, so it’s not like a giant release,” says Rick Lander, owner of Lander’s River Trips that has been taking people down the Upper Delaware River since 1955.

If it's your first time whitewater rafting, here are safety tips and tours to take suitable for the whole family upstate: 

Shuttle to launch

Lander's River Trips offers rafting, kayaking and tubing adventures on...

Lander's River Trips offers rafting, kayaking and tubing adventures on the Upper Delaware River. Credit: Lander’s River Trips

Lander’s brings you to one of their river launch areas or will pick you up from its  three campgrounds: Skinners Falls, Narrowsburg and Minisink Ford, take you upriver, and then you paddle back down to your campsite.

Between   5  and 10 miles long, the self-guided rafting trips typically take two-and-a-half to  five hours.

“It all depends on how long you want to be on the river and all the boats are rented by the day, so it’s up to you,” says Lander, noting that most people stop along the way to picnic and swim.

Lander’s rafts hold four  to  six people, all of whom go out in private groups and are not paired with strangers.

“You can take a cooler with you and we even let dogs in, which is pretty big now,” said Lander, adding that dogs are also allowed at campsites.

Rafters should wear bathing suits, T-shirts, sunscreen, a hat, sneakers or water shoes on the excursion. Bring water, food and a waterproof bag for a cellphone, but no glass — it’s forbidden on the river. Prices include the raft, paddles, lifejacket, shuttle service to the launch and instruction. Children under 12 must always wear a lifejacket.

Fun for the family

Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting located in Port Jervis, offers excursions...

Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting located in Port Jervis, offers excursions on the Delaware River.  Credit: Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting

Before each trip, Lander’s and other outfitters provide instructions, including how to paddle (with one hand on the top, the other around the neck) and where to sit in the raft (facing forward).

“The river only goes one way and there’s no way to get lost,” Lander says. “There’s a big sign at the bottom that says ‘Narrowsburg’ or wherever you’re going to end up.”

The National Park Service and volunteer river safety patrols are on the river to assist with problems or rescues.

Though life jackets aren’t mandatory, Lander’s recommends everyone wear one, especially if you’re not a good swimmer.

If the raft hits a rock, it will just bounce off — and not tip over — and the person in the back of the boat will use the paddle like a rudder to change direction.

“If you fall out of the raft in a rapid, we suggest you lay on your back, keep your feet up so you don’t have foot entrapments, wait until you get to the bottom of the rapid, and just stand up,” Lander said.

About half of Lander’s clientele are day trippers; the other half spend the weekend camping, spending most of Saturday on the river.

“I have groups that have been coming for 50 years: the same group,” Lander says. “And you get families, and grandparents and grandkids.”

Rafting for big and small groups 

At Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting, which has standard rafts for  two to  six people and larger ones for up to 10, the most popular trip is a four and-a-half to five-hour, 9-mile jaunt from Pond Eddy to Port Jervis.

“Sounds intimidating,” says Logan Crouthamel, Silver Canoe’s operations manager. “However, it’s the perfect trip for beginners, intermediate and advanced because it has a little bit of everything. It also has that bump, splash fun of the class 1, 2 rapids of the Upper Delaware. And then it has the more calm parts where you can swim, float, paddle through.”

Silver Canoe also offers a 3-mile trip, from the Mongaup access point, which takes  two to two-and-a-half hours, depending on how hard you paddle.

People can customize their trips to their liking.

“You can paddle right through,” Crouthamel says. “You can pull off on the side. There’s tons of public land for you to stop at … Honestly, it’s just what you make of it to make it the best experience.”

Book a trip

Lander’s River Trips

Skinners Falls, Narrowsburg and Minisink Ford, New York 

Trips are $65 per person ($60 during the week); children under 12 (Minimum age 6 and weight of 50 pounds) are half price and groups of 10 are discounted. Packages are also available for camping and rafting trips.

More info: 800-252-3925, landersrivertrips.com

Silver Canoe & Whitewater Rafting

10 Corso Rd., Port Jervis, NY

Trips are $70 per person ($65, weekdays); $30 per child under 50 inches ($29, weekdays). No minimum age, but children must be at least 50 pounds. Group discounts are available.

More info: 800-233-7238, silvercanoe.com

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