Rafting the Vorderrhein – Ilanz to Reichenau

With coronavirus restrictions loosening and gorgeous weather predicted for the weekend, I decided to book a last minute white water rafting trip on the Vorderrhein.

Detail Summary

Location:Vorderrhein river, Ilanz to Reichenau,
Canton Graubunden, Switzerland
Car + Train: Zürich -> Reichenau – 1 h 25 min
Reichenau -> Ilanz – 25 min
Train:Zürich HB -> Ilanz – 1 h 53 min
Open:Mid-May to October
Minimum age: 10
Not suitable for pregnant women.
Duration: 3-3.5 hrs, approx. 2 of them on the water
Cost 2020:Guided tour –  CHF 115/  Adults, CHF 75 / kids/teens 10-17 years

The Vorderrhein, located in the canton of Graubunden in eastern Switzerland, is one of two major tributaries to the Rhine river. The section we would be rafting is the approximately 20 km between Ilanz and Reichenau taking us through the impressive Rhine Gorge. The river offers quiet sections alternating with a few fun rapids where we really appreciated having a guide to steer us through.

Booking a Guide

While we own our own inflatable kayaks and have done easy river sections on our own, the Vorderrhein has a fast current and a few challenging rapids that I would not be comfortable doing without a guide. The water is also very cold (10 c/50 f in July), and wearing a wetsuit (which we don’t own) is highly recommended.

There are several companies that offer rafting on this section of the Vorderrhein. For our guide, we chose Swiss River Adventures. Their website is in English and German and they offer simple on-line booking. They will ask your preferred language and do their best to pair you with a guide in that language. Guides were available for German, French, and English, the day we were there. We were very happy with this choice and would highly recommend them.

What to Bring/ Wear

Our guides provided everything we needed for on the river (raft, paddles, life vests, helmets, wetsuits, water shoes, and water jackets.)

When booking the trip, I received an email with  a list of what we needed to bring.  For the most part, the essentials were:

  • swimsuits to wear under our wetsuits.
  • towels. Even if you don’t fall out of your raft, you will get wet!
  • a bag to store our dry clothes,  shoes, towels  and any other personal belongings we had with us.  The bag did not need to be waterproof as it didn’t come on the river with us, rather our guides transported it for us to the takeout point. 

What about a camera?

This is a gorgeous stretch of river and we really wanted to get some good photos. My husband had a waterproof camera on a strap around his neck, but found it impossible to use as he was also holding a paddle the entire time. However, we also had a Go-Pro strapped to his helmet, which allowed us to get some good photos. Note. Even with the strap, I was worried my husband would loose the camera. If it had fallen in the river, we’d would have needed to be  lottery-winner lucky to get it back. If you have hands-free camera equipment, this is a the time to use it.

Getting There

You can take the train directly to Ilanz where you will meet your guide. After rafting, it is a 10 minute walk to the Reichenau train station from the takeout point.

We decided to drive. As recommended by our guides, we parked at the takeout point in Reichenau (Address: Im Farsch, 7402 Bonaduz). This is a decent sized gravel parking lot right by the river. Parking is metered, although I don’t remember the exact amount. From the parking lot, it is a short 10 minute walk to the Reichenau train station, where we caught the train to Ilanz.

The rafting trip start times are conveniently set to coincide with the train arrival times.

Meeting the Guide 

We met our guide at the Ilanz train station. He was easy to spot as he was wearing a Swiss River Adventures t-shirt and carrying a paddle. After making sure he had collected everyone, he led us on a short five minute walk to their equipment house. There, payment was checked and we were outfitted for the trip.

We were each provided with a wetsuit, water jacket, and booties to wear along with a life jacket, helmet and paddle. The equipment house had men’s and women’s changing rooms where we changed into our swimsuits and squeezed into the wetsuits. There is also a restroom here if you need it. (You will not be able to go while on the river, so best to use it here beforehand.)  After changing into our wetsuits, we put our dry clothes, shoes, towels and other personal belongings into our bag and handed it off to the guides. They then transported everything safe and dry to the take out point. 

With everyone suited up, the guides went through a brief safety demonstration to make sure we knew where to sit on the raft, how to hold the paddle and  what to do if we fell out of the raft. With the safety presentation done, we headed down to the river and into our rafts.

On the River

Our tour group was divided between to two rafts, one larger one holding 10 people and one smaller one holding six. We were in the smaller raft. 

The first section of the river, despite the swift current, is quite calm. This gave the guide a good amount of time to review paddling commands and for us to get some practice in before  hitting any rapids. We practiced paddling forwards and backwards. And, we also practiced crouching in the center, a technique that came in quite handy when we hit the first rapids shortly down the river. 

As we paddled further down the river, our guide pointed out interesting rock formations and lookout points for hikes above the river and gave us some history of the geology of the area. This section of the river takes you through the beautiful Rhine Gorge. Unfortunately, our Go-Pro ran out of memory before we went through the prettiest sections. But, you can get a hint of the soaring white/grey walls and rock formations from the pictures we got just as we entered the gorge. If/when I do this trip again, I will add more pictures. the gorge really is spectacular.

Off the River

After nearly two hours on the river, we reached our take out point in Reichenau. The takeout point has a wide rocky beach area which made it quite easy to land the raft. After helping to carry the raft up to the transport vehicle and returning our paddles, helmets, and life vests, we retrieved our bag with our dry clothes from the guides and used the changing rooms there to get out of our wetsuits. There are also restrooms here if you need them. 

Swiss River Adventures provides a small after rafting apéro (light snacks and drinks) in a tent at the landing site, but we were not able to stay as we had to head right home after the trip. Perhaps another time. This was a fun afternoon and I would definitely recommend it and would do it again. 

Note: This is post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *