We had adults drop us off at rivers and pick us up at the take-outs starting when we were about 12 0r 13. Occasionally an adult would go. We prefered the did not go with us. Indiana/Illinois flatwater- easy whitewater. We really like the small amount of whitewater and looked to find better rivers.
As soon a someone had a drivers license, we came up with the scheme to tell the adults -another parent was going with us. Another adult was NOT going with us. We would pack up a vehicle and drive 350 miles to paddle the Wolf River (reservation) in Wisc. We proved a 16 yo could buy beer and bulletts in WI. Even sit at the bar if you made friends with the girls whos parents owned the place. We always had yellow duckie rafts for the non- paddlers in the group. 15 and 16 yo's the first year. When the reservation closed we headed to the Chattooga, some 650 miles away.
Somehow we lived though it- most of us were all on the high school swim team which helped. I do not tell the stories to my kids. When we sit around the campfire and tell stories- other paddles will look in disbelief. What kid of juvinile delinquets were you? Maybe some time you will hear of - The Exploding Bean Can and subsuquent tent fire. The grappling hook incident. The time the brakes and the exhaust system got torn off the car. The spraying skunk in the car... and many more.