Nothing kicks off summer vacation better than a free raft trip down the Lower Dolores River.
About a dozen kids from Montezuma and Dolores counties got to experience that adventure thanks to a partnership between the Piñon Project, Dolores River Boating Advocates and the Onward Foundation.
The May 20 trip down Ponderosa Gorge was organized for youth ages 9 to 17 in the Piñon Project mentoring program, and for many of them, it was a first.
“Rafting and whitewater rapids was a new experience for them, and they are still talking about how fun it was,” said Lauren Lacourciere, case manager for the mentoring program. “Most of the kids on the trip are still waiting to be paired with a mentor.”
Mild to Wild rafting gave the group a discount rate, and it was paid for thanks to a grant from the Onward Foundation.
The goal was to introduce kids to the thrill of rafting and show off the natural wonders of a river in their own backyard, said Amber Clark, program coordinator for the Dolores River Boating Advocates.
“They learned about the river, where it goes and the different ways it serves the community,” Clark said. “Some of them said they want to be a river guide now because you get paid to have fun!”
The daylong excursion coincided with Colorado’s First Public Lands Day.
A guided boating trip down the Lower Dolores was extra special, Lacourciere said, because a run depends on a water release from McPhee reservoir upstream.
Plus, it was an opportunity for kids to experience an outdoor activity that is often inaccessible for families because of the expense of the boating gear and required river skills.
“It was something they otherwise may not have had a chance to do,” Lacourciere said. “They connected with nature, and sharing a different experience together created a bond between the kids, forming positive new relationships.”
The organizations hope to make the youth raft trip an annual tradition. For more information on the Piñon Project mentoring program, check out their web page.