Why Is The Water White?

So, when you’re in the whitewater rafting biz, you hear some crazy stuff. Is this salt water? Will we get out back where we started? More.

But seriously, “Why is the water white?” is a decent enough question, and it deserves a good answer.

The answer is air. Air is what makes the water white. Because as the water goes churning through the rapids, the air gets trapped in the water, in the form of about a bazillion-jillion bubbles (that’s a certified number, according to my four-year-old).

Okay, fair enough. But why does that even happen in the first place?

Well, there are a couple different ways to go here, namely 1) what makes a rapid, and 2) what makes a wave.

Since we’re already down to the level of bubbles, let’s stay small (for now) and talk about waves. Oh, and we’re not going to go all “physics” on you. This is a pretty simple explanation.

Waves have a trough, and waves have a crest. In a river, the crest of the wave is actually water that’s trying to fill in the trough. Forever. And ever. The wave just stays in the same place, and the water moves through it, and then keeps on going downstream.

But why is it there?

Well, the water is going over a rock. Maybe a little shallow one, maybe a big deep one, but definitely a rock (except when it’s not, which is this whole other thing, so just pretend it’s always a rock. Go with it.)

Anyway, the water goes over the rock, then dips down on the other side (trough), the rises back up to try to fill in that dip (crest).

Cool, huh? There’s a lot more to know about waves in rivers, but that’s the basic gist. And you know what they say: the more you know, the more you’ll probably go rafting.

Actually, no one says that.

So, what do think? Pretty accurate? Got anything to add? Tell us in the comments.

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