Roughly 40 kids watched trees transition from new to old growth Friday as they floated under the eaves of Jedediah Redwoods State Park.

The youngsters, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from Gasquet Mountain School, spotted birds and other animals from rafts and kayaks on a float down the Smith River courtesy of Redwood Rides. They enjoyed a short hike, braved a mild set of rapids their guides dubbed "Disneyland" and had a barbecue when they tied up at the park's day-use area, said principal Rae Fearing.

Fearing noted when her students went over the rapids, the river was shallow enough for their raft guide to help the school's kayakers through the area.

"It was a great experience," she said. "Low risk, and to be able to have support the whole way — they had fun; it was super exciting."

Redwood Rides owners Adam Spencer and Alex Kwan and other guides took their charges from the Forks Boat Ramp to the day-use area at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It was a float of about three miles, Spencer said. During their excursion, Spencer said they discussed the relationship between salmon and the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

"Myself and my business partner, Alex, we both took some of our first paddling trips through school field trips on world class rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin," said Spencer, who went before the Del Norte County Unified School District Board of Trustees last month to secure permission for the Mountain School trip. "We've really emphasized safety and caution at every turn of our trips, and our guides are certified in swift water rescue."

Redwood Rides has hosted kayak and rafting trips for other schools as well, including Trinidad and Jacoby Creek elementary schools in Humboldt County, Spencer said. He said the Mountain School trip came a day before Redwood Rides celebrated its five-year anniversary with free floats and a barbecue for the community.

"A lot of locals have never floated the Smith," he said.

The same goes for many of Fearing students. Most have been swimming in the river and have gone to the Forks, Fearing said, but very few have had the "full river rafting experience." Others, she said, raft with their parents regularly.

"I was sitting with a mix of both in my raft," she said. "They were just so excited because we're busy the whole time. It's still calm, but you're paddling (and) navigating. They were super excited to get to do something outdoors and physical. It's different than your normal hanging out at Jed Smith or hike in the trees."

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