A whitewater raft is an inflatable boat that can maneuver difficult rapids because of its flexibility and buoyancy. Rafts are made of rubber of PVC fabrics constructed into several chambers of air. The thick materials make the rafts strong enough to pass over sharp rocks without being damaged. Since the rafts are inflatable, they can float through shallow water and rapids with ease. Rafts range in size but the rafts most commonly found in West Virginia hold between 8 and 10 people.
Because of the size and high capacity of a whitewater raft, it can move through certain features that are usually avoided by smaller vessels like kayaks and canoes. Some high water features will easily flip a kayak or canoe with one paddler. These features can be crossed by a raft because it carries greater momentum if all the paddlers are paddling together. Thanks to this advantage, rafts can cover some features that other boats cannot, possibly making the experience more fun.
Besides the large rafts, many paddlers may use one or two person inflatable boats called “duckies.” Since they are smaller, duckies are necessary in slow or shallow sections of the New River. Duckies are made of the same tough material as the larger rafts so they can still bend and maneuver while floating over sharp rocks and sticks. Duckies are used by rafting companies on parts of their New River trips.