White water rafting isn’t a sport solely for adventure seekers. Whether you thrive off the excitement of adrenaline-pumping activities or prefer relaxation and serenity, a white water rafting trip has the potential to become your new favorite weekend activity.
While our home state of Colorado has some of the nation’s best rivers for whitewater rafting, there are plenty of other destinations around the country where you can get your rafting fix. As rafting is a seasonal activity and dependent on snowmelt, the length of the season can vary but you’ll usually find the best water between April and September.
No matter where you live in the United States, you’re sure to find a strong current and pumping adrenaline at any of the following whitewater rafting adventure spots:
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Quick Guide to Rapid Classes
Before deciding what river is best for your adventure, first understand what sort of rapid classification fits your skill level.
- Class 1: Slow moving water with light ripples, the most difficulty comes from navigating around objects in the water.
- Class 2: Medium speed, with regular waves and rapids. Basic water-reading and canoe-maneuvering skills needed.
- Class 3: Medium-high speed, with many large, irregular waves and rapids. Objects have narrow but clear passages requiring greater experience to shoot.
- Class 4: Visual inspection mandatory. Fast moving water with numerous, irregular rapids and waves. Requires ability to change direction quickly and precisely.
- Class 5: Rescue preparations mandatory. Extremely fast moving water with large drops, large, regular waves, and numerous obstacles.
1. Arkansas River, Colorado
Rafting Distance: 100 miles to choose fromRapids Class: 3-4
We start our list with a river that’s quite close to home. The Arkansas River in Colorado is known to be one of the best places in the west to go rafting. This beautiful river features more than 100 miles of whitewater as well as scenic views. This rafting trip is ideal for all ages as difficulty levels vary throughout the course of the river. The Brown’s Canyon stretch of the river is the most popular family rafting trip in the state with spectacular scenery to go along with it. Whether you’re planning a solo family white water trip or going on a guided expedition, the Arkansas River has plenty to offer.
2. Deschutes River, Oregon
Rafting Distance: 100 miles to choose fromRapids Class: 3
Head to the spectacular Pacific Northwest for white water rafting on the west coast. Catch the best rafting on the Deschutes River on the 40-mile section from Warm Springs to Maupin. It’s a four-day adventure to float the entire route, but there are plenty of stretches for day trips with rock cliff overhangs and endless churning water. Not only does this section of the river guarantee exciting whitewater, but it also offers plenty of animal sightings as this region is home to bighorn sheep, deer, beaver, and over 100 species of birds.
3. Chattooga River, Georgia and South Carolina
Rafting Distance: 26 milesRapids Class: 3-4
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Get a change of scenery by heading south for the superb whitewater on the Chattooga River. This infamous rafting spot offers 26 miles of rapids extending between Georgia and South Carolina. With routes that vary in difficulty, this spot is ideal for all ages. Choose from class I to class III rapids that follow the course of this free-flowing river surrounded by nature, unimpeded by dams and other development.
4. Salmon River, Idaho
Rafting Distance: 425 miles to choose fromRapids Class: 3-4
The Salmon River has made a name in the state of Idaho as one of the best places for white water rafting in the country. This waterway is located in a remote area and is surrounded by unmatched natural beauty. Battle the rapids for half a day or take a multi-day excursion with one of the many tour groups available. Experienced rafters will enjoy the large waves that occur in June and July. Those new to rafting can enjoy a more laid-back experience in late July and August.
5. Deerfield River, Massachusetts
Rafting Distance: 17 milesRapids Class: 2-4
The Deerfield River in Massachusetts offers top white water rafting conditions from April to October. Take a family trip to admire the local landscape. This river offers rafting for all ages, abundant wildlife, scenic towns, and natural splendor. If you are looking for a thrilling experience battling large waves and strong currents, the Deerfield River also offers Class IV rapids for experienced rafters.
6. Snake River, Wyoming
Rafting Distance: 8 milesRapids Class: 2-3
Wyoming may be a state known for its vast prairies and farmland, but it is also home to lively waterways, the Grand Teton Mountains, and, as a result, some of the best white water rafting in North America. Along with spectacular vistas, Snake River offers prime whitewater in the Jackson Hole area suited for all levels of experience.
7. Kennebec River, Maine
Rafting Distance: 7 milesRapids Class: 3-4
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While Maine is home to several rivers with whitewater, the Kennebec is the most popular as it offers pristine wilderness and miles of rapids. The waves reach 6-8 feet, making it a perfect destination for thrill seekers. Rafters on the Kennebec can also enjoy swimming holes and waterfalls in addition to an exhilarating adventure.
8. Colorado River, Utah and Arizona
Rafting Distance: 420-mile stretchRapids Class: 2-4
Get a new perspective of the Grand Canyon with a whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River. While the river has a total length of 1,450 miles and stretches from the mountains of Colorado all the way to Mexico, some of the best whitewater rafting can be found within the states of Utah and Arizona. Experiencing the famous red rock formations found in Utah or floating your way between towering canyon walls in Arizona provides one of the most unique white water rafting adventures you can get.
9. New River, West Virginia
Rafting Distance: 16 milesRapids Class: 2-4
The New River Gorge is a 53-mile long national park that stretches through West Virginia along the New River. This popular rafting spot is considered to be one of the best in the country as its waters range from relaxing pools to large waves full of exhilarating whitewater.
When it comes to whitewater rafting adventures, there are plenty to be found around the country. Choosing any of the above top locations as the destination for your next white water rafting trip will satiate your need for outdoor excitement and fill your eyes with natural wonder.