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by: BLUE SKY RAFTING PHOTO: CHAD MOSHER - Blue Sky Rafting Guide Mattew Haenny (back right) shows us how its done. Mick (back left) Jennifer (front left) and Ryan Karbula get a kick out of the Clackamas River. Just ignore the intrepid reporter (front right).If you’ve never been whitewater rafting before, you may be a bit nervous before your first trip.

True, there is a release form to sign with some morbid things to put your initials by. Then before you climb into the raft, the guide gives a talk on how to paddle and what to do if you fall out in the rapids.

At this point, if you’re like me, you might be a bit anxious.

But, Blue Sky Rafting guides are prepared for this sort of trepidation and do away with it immediately by giving guests a taste of whitewater right away.

About a quarter of a mile into Blue Sky Rafting’s half-day trip on the Clackamas River, you hit the Hole in the Wall Rapids.

And it’s really, really fun.

As soon as we reached calm water, I couldn’t wait to find the waves again.

by: BLUE SKY RAFTING PHOTO: CHAD MOSHER - While a good portion of the half-day float is along calm water, youll also encounter plenty of adrenaline-pumping rapids.Beaming, with a face-full of water, my mind was yelling “Let’s do it again!”

That’s just what Blue Sky Rafting Guide Matthew Haenny was aiming for.

As the other rafters and I shake water from our hair and eyes, Haenny tells us that his job description is basically to bring us back grinning with our hair wet.

Job well done.

This probably wouldn’t surprise Blue Sky Rafting founder Pete Giordano.

“Once people see the reality of it, people relax and have fun,” he said in an interview before the trip.

Giordano said there is an incredible range of ages and skill levels that come to experience the Clackamas River through Blue Sky Rafting trips.

“Grandparents to small children and everything in between,” he said.

That’s not to say that the tour isn’t exciting.

Haenny gave our tour several opportunities to surf the raft on waves and showed us all how to do the “bull rider” at the front of the raft with your legs hanging over while holding onto a knotted cord.

(Of the four guests on the raft, Ryan Karbula was the only one brave enough to try it on the rapids.)

The six-mile, half-day float of the Clackamas takes you through several rapids ranging from Class 2 to Class 4; the most exciting being the Toilet Bowl near the end of the trip.

The float of the Clackamas isn’t all about spiking your adrenaline though.

Between rapids, there is plenty to look at: the basalt cliffs, the old growth forests, bright goldfinches, maybe even an osprey and, of course, the water.

“What everyone comments on most frequently is the water clarity. You can see all the way to the bottom at times,” Giordano said.

While Blue Sky Rafting also offers whitewater rafting trips on the Hood, Molalla, North Santiam and Sandy rivers, Giordano seems especially fond of the Clackamas.

“The scenery is just knock your socks off beautiful,” he said and pointed out that the Clackamas is a designated federal Wild and Scenic River. “It’s unusual to find something of that quality so close to an urban setting.”

After guiding on the Arkansas River in Colorado for four years, Giordano started Blue Sky Rafting in Oregon in 1998.

The company began with two rafts, a van and one other part-time guide besides Giordano.

Today, the company has 13 rafts and, depending on the year, employs about 20 people.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CHAD MOSHER - Were alive! Paddle high-five.A guide goes with each tour and a photographer catches candid photos of guests as they crash through the rapids.

Floats are scheduled year-round, but the company’s busiest season is from May through Labor Day.

The bulk of Blue Sky Rafting customers tend to be out-of-towners, Giordano said.

My crewmates for my half-day trip were Mick, Ryan and Jennifer Karbula of Ohio. They were on a National Park tour road trip and called Blue Sky Rafting as a way to experience Oregon. All three agreed that they enjoyed it.

For more information on Blue Sky Rafting visit www.blueskyrafting.com or call 503-630-3163.

Want to take a rafting tour of the Clackamas?

WHAT: Blue Sky Rafting offers full and half-day tours of the Clackamas River.

COST: Half-day trips cost $48 per person on weekdays and $50 on weekends. Full-day trips are $80 on weekdays and $85 on weekends.

WHEN: Half-day trips meet at 9:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.; full-day trips meet at 10 a.m.

STAY DRY: Wetsuits may be rented for $5 and wetsuit booties may be rented for $3.

CONTACT: To reserve a trip call 503-630-3163, 888-789-5486 or 800-898-6398.

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