Unplug on a back-to-school raft trip through New River Gorge

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Rafters paddle beneath a historic trestle in the New River Gorge. Photo courtesy River Expeditions.

Start the school-year off by unplugging with the kids on a whitewater rafting trip through the , a chasm deep enough and a journey wet enough to inhibit smart-phone use.

The vice-president of River Expeditions, Heather Johnson says last-minute trips through the gorge are popular with families in search of end-of-summer fun, but the experience is about more than fun for children: it’s about immersion in nature.

“It’s about unplugging from devices and being present with family, enjoying nature and adventure,” Johnson said.

“In fact, I just received an inspirational thank-you from a mother who wrote, ‘We enjoyed a full day on the river, and our 15-year-old daughter loved it, too, and actually survived without her phone for the entire day!’ ”

Johnson said the journey with a knowledgeable raft guide through the national park can also be a life-changing educational experience, ideal for older children.

“As much as anything else, there’s the history of the gorge — a large part of the reason it was designated a national park and why the scouts established their Jamboree reserve here.

“Geology, forestry, and the amazing cultural history of the gorge are all subjects in which our guides are thoroughly schooled, and children often come off the river with a changed understanding of the world as a result.”

Families who can’t make it in August are welcome to take advantage of River Expeditions’ Labor Day September 1-3, which include New River rafting on Saturday and Sunday, a barbeque cookout after the trip, three nights of camping, and a light daily breakfast for $145 per person.

Rafters may also buy a single day trip and get one free for $110 on Labor Day, Johnson said.

In addition to rafting, guests of River Expedition also are provided access to zipline tours, rock climbing, mountain biking, and a paintball field on a 100-acre resort and basecamp at Fayetteville, West Virginia, near the rim of the gorge.

The basecamp center also includes a dining hall, outfitters shop, meeting facilities, and an outdoor pool and hot tub as well as the saloon and grill, and students are welcome to stay in their choice of campgrounds as well as dozens of basecamp rustic and deluxe cabins.

Rafting on the nearby Gauley River gears up on the Friday after Labor Day, Johnson said.

For more information on introductory rafting packages or for general information on River Expeditions, call 800-463-9873 or visit their .

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