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Paddle on with a Rafting Adventure!

You’re on the road with a church group, and you need an activity that will create a quick and meaningful bond. Sending them down whitewater rapids together ensures a fast track to teamwork skills, lasting memories and a huge dose of fun.

Rafting outfitters across the country welcome church groups of any size to spend a day with them enjoying both the peaceful and heart-pounding moments of whitewater rafting. These five tours work perfectly for faith-based groups of various experience levels, including newbies.

Whether it’s the rocky peaks of the West, the lush mountains of West Virginia or the verdant landscape of the Northeast, these rafting trips can offer groups a safe thrill on your next tour.

White Salmon River, Wet Planet Whitewater

White Salmon, Washington

Churches have long partnered with Habitat for Humanity to quickly mobilize their members to help build affordable housing in their own communities. The organization welcomes youth groups to volunteer with their local chapters whenever they are able. For groups that have already had a positive experience with these projects, Habitat offers a more in-depth, travel-based opportunity called Collegiate Challenge.

Many colleges send groups to participate in Collegiate Challenge at various times during their winter, spring or summer breaks. But church youth groups can get in on the action as well, providing that all travelers are at least 16 years old.

“We have a list of affiliates that will host a team for a week,” said Jenna Widmann, manager of youth and young professionals engagement for Habitat. “The affiliate finds housing for the group, and the group is able to spend time together and connect. And since they’re spending more than one day working on their projects, they begin to connect with the community, understand the housing needs and meet the homeowners that they’re helping.”

The service projects are available in a variety of areas around the country, including Lafayette, Louisiana, a popular destination during winter break, and Forsythe County, North Carolina. During the weeklong trips, participants work on building projects for most of the day but also spend some time learning about their host communities.

“We try to include some educational aspects,” Widmann said. “The affiliate can explain what affordable housing means in their community and what poverty housing looks like. We always encourage the affiliates to provide a dinner or some type of event where students get to meet people in the community.”

Widmann said most programs include a day or two of sightseeing tours, with activities such as a swamp tour in Louisiana or visits to sites affected by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey.

New River, Ace Adventure Resort

Minden, West Virginia

Do not let the name fool you: New River is one of the five oldest rivers in the world. Cutting through the Appalachians, the wild river became part of the New River Gorge National River in 1978.

ACE Adventure Resort runs some of the area’s most popular whitewater-rafting trips down this beloved waterway.

“The scenery is amazing,” said Brannon Roberts, marketing assistant for ACE Adventure Resort. “It is called the Grand Canyon of the East for a reason. It’s like the Grand Canyon but green. There are walls of beautiful trees and huge rocks.”

Groups with wide-ranging experience levels can choose from a half day or a full day on the Lower New River for experiences charged with excitement and Classes II through IV rapids. For those with children under 9 or limited mobility, the Upper New River offers calm waters and tops out at Class III rapids.

The outfitter offers riverside lunches consisting of pulled-pork sandwiches and various sides. Guides let paddlers know when to focus and when they can relax, and direct them to places in the river that are perfect for swimming breaks.

“Our guides are the rock stars of the company,” said Roberts. “Depending on who their group is, they are good at adapting different types of conversations. They talk about the history of the river, the area and tell jokes. They love what they do, which really shows.”

The 35-year-old resort and outfitter can combine adventurous activities, such as zip lining, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking on its 1,500-acre property.