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​River Rafting 101: Tips for First-Timers

Date: July 21, 2017
Category: Blog

Rafting is a unique way to see the Hoover Dam. Visitors get a fish-eye view of the impressive concrete gravity-arch structure with its dual spillways and turbine powerhouse, plus the newer Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge – completed in 2010 to divert heavy traffic away from US93. Rafters can view artifacts from the dam’s creation and snap Instagram pics of wildlife on the shores of the Colorado River.

Many tourists picture gushing waters and perilous rapids when they hear the phrase, “river rafting.” The good news is that not all sections of the Colorado River contain sizeable rapids. Our Black Canyon Raft Tour, conducted by seasoned guides, takes guests through a calm, 12-mile-long stretch of the Black Canyon Water Trail from the dam to Willow Beach. “This is a smooth water rafting tour without a lot of splash – although there could be some,” says sales manager Beth Carden.

To help ease first-timers into the idea of floating down the Colorado, we’re covering the major points of river rafting for beginners.


“We recommend layered clothing,” says Carden. Temperatures can rapidly fluctuate in the desert. Layers help protect you from the sun, and allow you to put on or peel off extra clothing as the heat level changes.


Black Canyon River Adventures (BCRA) provides life vests, lunch on the river banks, and all the gear you’ll need for rafting. To be fully prepared, pack sunglasses and sunscreen, a hat with straps, and comfortable closed-toe shoes (to avoid injury, as well as flying flip-flops).


Bring a swimsuit if you’d like to take a dip. Be forewarned, the water isn’t as balmy as the desert air. Rafters are provided with life vests, but it’s always a safe precaution to learn how to swim before taking a rafting trip.

How to Prepare

Don’t worry – you don’t need to pump iron or do pull-ups to prepare for this journey. Our rafts are fully motorized, and our staff will guide them into the water at the boat launch. Almost anyone, at any skill level, can take the Black Canyon Raft Tour. “You do need to be able to walk on uneven ground and sit without a back support,” Carden explains. “It is a high step in and out of the raft… we usually tell people with a problem to sit on the top step and swing around to get in, instead of trying to step that high.”

What to Look For

BCRA’s trained raft pilots serve as your guides during the 3-hour expedition. Expect stories about the dam’s construction and 80-year history, as you traverse the water past geothermal hot springs and volcanic formations. Your guide can also help point out the amazing creatures found inside the canyon, including bighorn sheep and osprey. Don’t forget your camera!

Rafting the Colorado at Hoover Dam is as simple and safe as taking a rowboat ride. There’s no need for paddling, so you can relax and enjoy the colorful coves and desert scenery found throughout your tour. Your journey ends at Willow Beach, where rafters disembark to find a sandy park area, restaurant and fishing pier. Contact us today to book your first rafting adventure at the Hoover Dam.