How to Find “River Magic” On Every Rafting Trip

Rafting Trip River Magic | Desolation Canyon | Photo: Whit Richardson

Returning from an experience as all encompassing as a multi-day rafting trip can be challenging to encapsulate. How do you explain the waves, the sand, the camaraderie, the exhilaration, the quiet, and how they all whirled together in the most beautiful way?

Often, these forces permeate our lives so fully that we must return to the river. To satiate wanderlust and water love, we come back. Guides know this pull all too well: we complete the circle season after season to rekindle our romance with the river.

River magic sounds like an elusive concept, one only the most seasoned boaters are privy to know. In reality, river magic dazzles us all: novice to expert. It does not discriminate. It only requires you be open to its opulence.

More bewitching than bewildering, it creates the tone for the trip. As we come to the river to be stewards and enjoyers, the places we seek out enchant us.

Rafting Trip River Magic | Desolation Canyon | Photo: Whit Richardson

Because we crave this indefatigable magic, it can be tempting to want to force it: to make sure on this trip, we have just as much fun, laugh just as much, do just as much. It is a delicate balance between creating cohesion by sharing past experiences and straining relationships through the constant refrain of, “Well, last time we were on the river…”

As guides, we are often guiltiest of perpetuating this. Our lives are a wave train of activity, cycles of trips on trips on trips — and we love it. Often, when we share a story from a previous excursion, we aim to connect instead of strain.

Despite our best intentions, we too get caught up in reminiscing (and okay, maybe exaggerating just a little) and can neglect our current floating community.

When I notice myself circling this eddy, I come back to a simple intention: be here now.

Rafting Trip River Magic | Desolation Canyon | Photo: Whit Richardson

It reminds me that I will never be in this place, with these people, at this time, ever again. It reminds me to slow down, breathe deeply, and appreciate the magic happening, even if it appears differently this iteration. When I do, I always find myself connecting to the group on a deeper level.

These experiences are special because they do end. They are a wilderness reprieve, a sacrosanct excursion into new places both in nature and in us.

So, how to ensure your next trip will be just as dazzling as your first, fifth, twentieth, hundredth?

Let the magic be.

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Photos: Whit Richardson