Rafting FAQs

Is rafting safe?
Whitewater rafting is a fun and exciting activity, but all participants must be fully aware of and understand safety precautions of this inherently dangerous sport. We require all participants to go through a trip talk, where safety and rescue procedures are reviewed by our professional guides. If you do happen to fall out of the raft, our trip talks are designed to equip you with the proper knowledge so that you may assist in your own rescue, quickly and properly. Each participant is fitted for a personal flotation device (PFD) and helmet for necessary safety. River guards are also stationed along the river.


Do I need experience?
No prior experience is needed; every trip is guided by one of our professional raft guides. All USNWC guides are First Aid, CPR and AED certified.


Do I need to know how to swim?
Not having the ability to swim may affect your comfort level during one of our guided trips. Whitewater rafting is a physically demanding activity that requires active participation from each individual. If you are not comfortable in the water, this may affect your ability to properly maneuver your raft, causing greater risk. Every USNWC rafting participant is suited with a helmet and personal flotation device (PFD). If you do happen to fall out of the raft, the PFD is designed to help you float. Along our channels, river guards are positioned for immediate and safe recovery. However, swimmer or not, individuals are expected to be able to assist in their own rescue, while staying calm. All this information and more is covered during the trip talk.


When should I arrive?
Please arrive 30 minutes prior to your trip time to allow for check in and changing. Raft orientations promptly begin at the time that your raft trip is scheduled. If your raft trip is scheduled for 2pm, you should be present in the trip talk building no later than 2pm. The trip talk and gear up time is roughly 30 minutes.


What should I wear?
For warmer weather, a bathing suit, shorts and a T-shirt are recommended. Rash guards or quick drying clothing is ideal.
For cooler weather, heavy wool suits and sweaters are recommended. Water proofed rain jackets and or/pants, splash jackets or wetsuits. Cotton and jeans are not recommended as they will only make you colder. Wet suits, booties and splash jackets are available for rent. Bathing suits must be worn under wet suit rentals.

Most importantly, secure footwear with a heel strap is required at all times. Flip flops are not permitted. Old sneakers, water shoes or sandals with a rubber sole are suggested. Footwear is available for rent.

If you wear glasses, you will want an eyeglass strap to keep them secure to your face.

If you are looking to purchase any of the recommended clothing and gear, please visit the Outfitter’s Store .

Overall, do not bring anything on the raft that you would like to keep dry or in your possession. There is always a risk of losing items in the river. It is highly recommended to remove all jewelry (rings, necklaces and earrings) with the possibility of it breaking, falling off or being ruined.  USNWC is not responsible for lost or broken items. To avoid these situations, please secure personal items in your car, in the USNWC locker rooms or at home.


How do I go rafting?
In order to go whitewater rafting, you must purchase either a Day Pass or Annual Pass, or schedule a Raft and Zip Tour. If you elect to raft using one of our pass options, advance reservations aren’t required, but we recommend purchasing a reservation as it is the only way to guarantee a specific rafting time slot. Without an advance reservation, rafting reservations are offered on a first come, first serve basis. Please check our Activities Schedule for water release times (the whitewater season is typically from early March to late October).


Are reservations required?
USNWC Pass holders and visitors are not required to make advance reservations for rafting trips. There are no guarantees; whitewater rafting is offered on a first come, first serve basis. When visiting the USNWC with a group of people or if you are on a time restraint, we recommend that you reserve a rafting time slot in advance of your visit. Raft reservations are the only way for guests to guarantee rafting times. Raft reservations can be made for a fee of $5 per/person, online, over the phone or in person. These reservations are non-refundable and non-transferable. If you would like to reserve on the next available trip time, there is no reservation fee to do so in person at Guest Services. Please check our Activities Schedule for water release times (the whitewater season is typically from early March to late October). If you have a large group, please call Guest Services at 704.391.3900 to make special arrangements.


What is included on the trip?
All rafters will be provided with a personal flotation device (PFD), helmet and paddle. For an additional fee, wetsuits, splash jackets, and booties are available for rent at the Climbing Center.


Are raft trips guided?
All raft trips are guided by a professional raft guide. All Raft Guides must completed raft guide training and are First Aid, CPR and AED certified.


Can I request a guide?
We cannot guarantee you a specific raft guide, but we can certainly make note of the request and do our best to match you up when possible.


Should I tip my guide? Is tipping necessary, appropriate or allowed?
Tipping is never required but always appreciated. If you have received exceptional service and would like to provide thanks by tipping your guide you may give it to them directly or complete a tip envelope at any Point of Sale location. Simply fill out the guides name, date, and trip time and we will make sure it gets to the guide.


What happens if there is bad weather?
Our activities will operate in the rain. Activities will go on standby during the threat of lightning or in the event of severe weather. Activities will re-open as soon as the weather allows. Please check the weather conditions before visiting the USNWC. Raft Reservations are non-refundable and non-transferable. Once you have purchased your pass or raft reservation, there are no rain checks or refunds.

U.S. National Whitewater Center | 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway | Charlotte, NC 28214 | 704.391.3900 | info@usnwc.org