Strap on your life jackets, and get ready for an awesome, educational ride. a raft is a special kind of boat that doesn't have a hull. Rafts are kept afloat either by buoyant materials such as wood or by inflated containers.
One of the first famous rafting expeditions took place in the 1860s. Major John W. Powell and a small group went on an amazing rapids adventure in an oar raft. He took the ride for more than just fun. He took it to learn about the Grand Canyon. An interesting funny fact is that when Powell and his assistant Bradley were climbing a rock face, Powell got stuck. Here’s the funny part, Bradley saved him by taking off his pants. He couldn't reach Powell to pull him up, so he hung his pants down and Powell was able to grab them, so Bradley could pull him to safety.
Now forward to the 2000s. Nowadays rafts are made with sleek, synthetic fabrics like softer rubber, and they are not made from hard splintery wood. Rafts come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The thing that makes them so much better today is that they are pliable, yet they are tough enough to absorb the force of banging against rocks without damage - at least most of the time. If you have ever been rafting, you’ll know it is a lot more fun on the new soft rafts.
There are two basic ways to classify rafts. They are either paddle boats or oar boats. In an oar boat, the oars are fastened to a solid frame lashed to the top of the raft's tubes. This kind of raft is especially good for carrying a lot of gear. In a paddle boat, each person has a paddle that is not attached to the raft. The people have to work together as a team in order to maneuver the boat.
As far as raft size goes, the wider the raft, the more stable it will be. This is especially true in a rapid or if it turns sideways. However, a raft with less width will turn quicker, and it will fit in smaller channels.
One really wonderful kind of raft that is available today is the self bailing raft. It used to be nearly impossible to keep water out of a raft. Most rafters brought along a bail bucket to remove water from the bottom of the raft. Most people had wet feet after a ride. In a self bailing raft, the floor has drainage holes on the edge that sit slightly higher than the surface of the water. When water splashes in the raft, it moves to the edges of the floor and out the drainage holes, back into the river.
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Watters, Ron. "Rafts and Drift Boats." isu.edu. 14 January 2005 <http://www.isu.edu/outdoor/raftequp.htm>.Images
Photograph of a raft has been released into the public domain by its creator, Arpingstone under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
Copyrighted clip art image of raft from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.