The Deerfield River surges in the Berkshire towns around Charlemont. Power company dam releases cause rapids to tumble down two stretches of the river: the exhilarating Class IV rapids of the Dryway and the mellower Class II and III rapids farther south, in the deep pools of Zoar Gap.
But you don’t have to own a kayak to get a taste of this New England whitewater. Zoar Outdoor takes adrenaline junkies down the river in sturdy rafts.
Once our kids turned 5, we took them floating through the farmland as guides talked about the history and natural beauty of the Mohawk Trail. Children, however, are far more interested in splashing their parents with the paddles.
The fun really begins at age 7, when kids are allowed to zip through Zoar Gap. There’s nothing quite like watching your child’s eyes light up with anticipation of the next big rapid as the raft bends, twists, and turns with every successive drop. Jake tells me that those are joyous screams, while Melanie insists they’re shrieks of terror. Just wait until they turn 14 and tackle the tumultuous Dryway.
WHEN YOU GO
After rafting, visit the lovely town of Shelburne Falls, only seven miles distant. Famous for its Bridge of Flowers, glacial potholes, and artisans’ studios. Children love watching the glassblowers in action.