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WHITEWATER RAFTING IN THE UNITED STATES


Welcome to Bigroads.com's guide to whitewater rafting in the USA!

A good chunk of the U.S. population will take a whitewater rafting trip at some point in their lives, and nearly all will forever remember it fondly. What many people may not realize is that the United States is chock-full of great rivers to raft. In fact, some of the best and most thrilling rafting adventures on the planet are found in the USA.

Full day rafting trips typically cost in the $75-$150/per person range, with the rate mostly depending upon the specific river and location. Multi-day expeditions are much more expensive, often costing many hundreds or even several thousands of dollars. However, multi-day trips offer an unparalleled river experience and are usually well worth the cost. If you are looking for a "once in a lifetime" sort of trip, a long rafting journey on rivers in states like Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Alaska should suit you quite nicely.

OARS is probably the premier rafting guide company in America, but there are literally hundreds of rafting guide companies across the United States to choose from, with many offering a variety of half day, full day, and multi-day trips, usually on several different rivers in their local region. We have listed OARS and several other outstanding guide companies on this page based on personal experiences and online reviews from websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp. We do not accept paid advertisements on Bigroads.com, so all recommendations we make are sincere.

Presented below are the major whitewater rafting rivers that are commercially guided in the United States, along with their rating (class I, II, III, IV or V), duration, season, and some general notes about the river or trip. This list intentionally excludes rivers that are not commercially guided (i.e. other rivers that are run by whitewater kayakers). Please email us @ gparsons66@hotmail.com if you believe we missed any of the major whitewater rafting rivers that are commercially guided in the USA, or if you have any other information you think we should include for any of the rivers presented below.

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WHITEWATER RAFTING IN ALASKA

For the ultimate in dramatic mountain and glacier scenery plus outstanding wildlife watching opportunities, look no further than whitewater rafting in Alaska. Alaskan rivers do present many challenges though: many rivers are glacier or snowmelt fed, and can vary widely in character based upon current water levels. Many trips also require a charter or bush plane flight (or two), and these flights don't come cheap. Logistical planning can also be challenging. And then there's the Alaskan grizzly bears and mosquitoes you've heard about. But if you desire the ultimate thrill that is an Alaskan multi-day rafting adventure (and you can actually afford it), this is one trip you should absolutely take.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Alaska Alagnak River Class
II/III
5-7 days June to August trips are typically 65-75 miles in length and require charter flights in and out; the Alagnak is perhaps more famous for sportfishing than it is for rafting; this can be a class II trip if you design your trip to skip the class III canyon portion
Alaska Alsek River Class
IV
7-14 days late-May or early-June to early August travels up to 150+ miles through both Alaska and British Columbia (bring your passport); supposedly only one class IV rapid with rest being generally rated II-III; floats through the "largest non-polar ice cap in the world"; widely considered to be a world-class rafting trip
Alaska Chickaloon River Class
III
2-3 days June to September requires a bush plane flight to the start (you float back); NOVA River Runners runs 2-3 day trips and is strongly recommended
Alaska Chitina River Class
III
3-10 days June to August most trips on this river seem to also include a portion of the Nizina River
Alaska Copper River Class
II
6-10 days June to August more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip
Alaska Kennicott River Class
II/III
day trip June to August rapids are sometimes only class II, depending upon water levels
Alaska Matanuska River Class
III
2 days June to September travels approximately 30 miles near Anchorage
Alaska Nenana River-Upper Class
II/III
day trip May to September along the eastern boundary of Denali National Park
Alaska Nenana River-Nenana Gorge Class
III/IV
1-2 days May to September along the eastern boundary of Denali National Park; Raft Denali offers a 33-mile 2-day trip
Alaska Nizina River-Upper Class
II/III
4-6 days June to August most trips seem to combine the Nizina River & the Chitina River
Alaska Six Mile Creek Class
IV/V
day trip May to September Kenai Peninsula
Alaska Talkeetna River Class
III/IV
3-5 days June to September bush plane trip required; a very popular multi-day Alaskan trip
Alaska Tana River Class
IV/V
5-6 days June to August 36-mile long trips appear to be the norm; "the crown jewel of remote Alaska white water rafting in Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve"
Alaska Tatshenshini River Class
III/IV
10-12 days June to September often combined with a trip on the Alsek River; OARS runs an 11-day trip (through an Alaskan affiliate)

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN ARIZONA

Arizona offers the most famous whitewater rafting trip in the entire world: the Colorado River through the heart of the Grand Canyon. You don't have to take the full 18-day trip through the entire canyon, but it wouldn't be a bad idea. Some guiding companies offer short trips on the Colorado (some as short as 1-day trips).

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Arizona Colorado River / Grand Canyon Class
V
1-18 days April to October this is the most famous whitewater rafting trip in North America (and perhaps the world); many different trips and boat types are offered on this river; the longer trips typically offer some side-trips to ancient ruins, swimming holes and other sites; motorized rafting trips are also led through the Grand Canyon; there are some 1-day Grand Canyon rafting trips offered, but what's the point in doing that?
Arizona Salt River Class
III/IV
1-4 days early-March to April or May springtime rafting in a 2000-foot deep canyon; class IV is only seen on the multi-day trips (day trips only experience class II/III rapids)
Arizona Verde River Class
II/III
1-2 days late-February to mid-April in low winter years, season can end in March; the river has one class IV rapid, but it is sometimes portaged; Arizona's only federally-designated “Wild and Scenic” river

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN CALIFORNIA

California offers enough rafting trips to keep you satisfied for years. The South Fork of the American River is one of the most popular rafting day-trips in the USA.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
California American River-South Fork Class
III
1-2 days March to October typically run as a day trip, but an overnight option is available; the most popular whitewater rafting trip in California; one of the most popular rafting trips in the USA; easiest of the forks of the American River
California American River-Middle Fork Class
III/IV
1-2 days April to September typically run as a day trip, but an overnight option is available; has the "weirdest & wildest Class IV rapid in California"
California American River-North Fork Class
IV/IV+
day trip April to May or sometimes June 9.5 mile run
California Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne Class
V/V+
day trip July to early-September supposedly the craziest regularly-run class V river in California (and one of the most challenging commercially guided rivers in the USA); has 15 class V rapids; prior rafting experience required
California East Carson River Class
II/III
1-2 days May through June or July length of season dependent upon snowmelt
California Kaweah River Class
IV/IV+
day trip mid-April to June prior rafting experience recommended; "non-stop action"
California Kern River-Lower: Jungle Run Class
II/III
day trip May to September one of several runs on the Lower Kern River; 9-mile trip
California Kern River-Lower: Big Water Class
III/IV/IV+
day trip May to September one of several runs on the Lower Kern River; 12-mile trip
California Kern River-Lower: Big Water & Jungle Run Class
III/IV/IV+
1 night / 2 days May to September a 2-day, 21 mile trip that combines both Jungle Run & Big Water sections
California Kern River-Upper Class
III/IV/V
day trip mid-May to mid-June some trips do sections with nothing greater than IV; other trips do sections with some class V's; Kern River is the most popular river in Southern California
California Kings River Class
III/III+
1-2 days April to mid-July runs along the borders of Sierra and Sequoia National Forests
California Klamath River-Lower Class
II/III
2-4 days April to October  
California Klamath River-Upper Class
IV
1-2 days May to September close to California/Oregon border
California Merced River-Upper Class
III/IV
day trip early-May to early/mid-June has a very short season; near, but not in, Yosemite National Park
California Merced River-Lower Class
III/IV
day trip mid-April to mid-July  
California Sacramento River-Upper Class
III/IV
1-2 days April to mid-June optional class IV+ rapid; day trips are more common than the 2-day trips
California Salmon River/Cal Salmon Class
V
1-2 days April to early July season can end shorter in low snow winters; sometimes also combined with the Scott River; often called the "Cal Salmon"; many say this has the best class V rapids in California
California Scott River Class
V
day trip April to early June "an incredible and seldom run river with technical and continuous class IV and V rapids"
California Stanislaus River-North Fork Class
III/IV
day trip April to May or early June "some of the most technical Class IV whitewater rafting in California"; sometimes trips are also offered in October
California Trinity River Class
II/III/III+
1-2 days April to September even better for families/small children than the South Fork of the American River
California Trinity River-Burnt Ranch Gorge Class
V
1-2 days June to September previous rafting experience often required
California Truckee River Class
II/III
day trip May to September 7-mile trip near Lake Tahoe
California Tuolumne River-Main Class
IV/V
1-3 days April to September one rapid is sometimes classified as class V, but Class IV is the norm; the full Tuolumne River experience is an 18-mile 2 or 3 day trip
California Yuba River-Lower Class
III/IV
day trip May to July 9-mile trip
California Yuba River-Upper Class
V
day trip May to July 8-10 mile trip; strong swimming ability required; there are many different sections of this river that can be run, and some guides do different sections

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN COLORADO

Colorado offers some of the most memorable rafting day trips in the USA, especially on various sections on the Arkansas River, which is one of America's most popular rafting rivers and offers over 60 miles of raftable water. Trips for the Arkansas River typically leave from either Buena Vista, Canon City or Salida. For more great information about rafting in Colorado, visit the CROA or Raft Colorado websites.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Colorado Animas River III/IV/V 1-2 days April to September Durango-area rafting trips; the typical summer trips that most tourists take are along the Lower Animas, which has mostly class III rapids; the upper section of the Animas River actually has some Class V rapids and is typically done as part of an overnight trip; a 2-day trip will typically travel 36 miles
Colorado Arkansas River-Bighorn Sheep
Canyon / Parkdale
Class
II/III
day trip May to September a 19-mile trip that is "great first-time rafting trip for families"
Colorado Arkansas River-The Narrows / Wildhorse Canyon Class
III/IV
day trip May to September 11-mile trip
Colorado Arkansas River-The Numbers Class
IV/V
day trip May to August a steep and technical whitewater rafting river; this 18-mile trip is the next step up after you have rafted the Brown's Canyon section of the Arkansas
Colorado Arkansas River-Royal Gorge Class
III/IV/V
day trip May to September some of the best whitewater rafting in the USA; passes through the 1,100ft deep Royal Gorge; prior rafting experience is usually highly recommended but not required
Colorado Arkansas River-Brown's Canyon Class
III/IV
1-4 days April to September often combined with Bighorn Sheep Canyon for "the best rafting thrills near Denver & Colorado Springs"; a 36-mile overnight trip is very popular; a one day trip on this river is supposedly Colorado's most popular rafting trip
Colorado Blue River Class
II/III/IV
day trip May to July this 10-mile trip passes through Arapaho National Forest; rafting guides are typically based in Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Kremmling
Colorado Cache La Poudre River Class
II/III/IV
day trip May to August Colorado's only federally-designated "Wild & Scenic" river; near Fort Collins & Rocky Mountain National Park; guides typically offer half and full day trips
Colorado Clear Creek River Class
IV/V
day trip May to August this river has several sections that vary widely in difficulty/rating; the closest rafting to Denver; half day and full day trips are offered by several rafting companies
Colorado Colorado River-Shoshone Rapids / Glenwood Canyon Class
II/III/IV
day trip May to September class IV rapids in spring; class III is more typical during summer and fall; half day and full day trips are offered by several rafting companies
Colorado Colorado River-Ruby Canyon / Horsethief Canyon Class
I/II
day trip May to September more of a float trip than a rafting trip, but there are some minor rapids
Colorado Colorado River-Gore Canyon Class
II/III or V
day trip May to August the normal rafting trip through Gore Canyon is only class II/III, but some guiding companies offer an additional 6-mile trip through class V rapids (which is often called "the ultimate challenge in Colorado rafting")
Colorado Dolores River Class
III/IV/V
1-4 days April to June about 50 or the 200 miles of the Dolores River is commonly rafted; one of Colorado's best multi-day rafting trips; only some sections of the Dolores have class V rapids; there are many different trips offered on the Dolores River
Colorado Eagle River-Lower Class
II/III
day trip May to early-July  
Colorado Eagle River-Upper Class
IV/V
day trip May to early-July one of the most intense rafting trips in Colorado
Colorado Elk River Class
III
day trip May to early-July a one-hour, 6-mile trip; Bucking Rainbow Outfitters offers trips
Colorado Green River-Lodore Canyon Class
II/III
3-5 days May to October this 44-mile trip is more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip; floats through Dinosaur National Monument; mostly in Colorado but a portion is also in Utah
Colorado Gunnison River-Gunnison Gorge / Gunny Gorge Class
III
day trip May to September this 14-mile rafting trip also includes a scenic 1-mile hike to start the trip; day trips are the norm, but some rafting companies offer 2 day trips
Colorado Lake Fork River Class
III/IV
day trip May to July  
Colorado North Platte River Class
III/IV
1-3 days May to September various trips of 6-35 miles typically depart from Fort Collins, Steamboat Springs or Laramie, Wyoming; excellent trout fishing
Colorado Piedra River Class
III/IV
1-2 days May to July has a lower and upper section that are often combined into a 2-day trip
Colorado Rio Grande River Class
II/III
day trip May to June trips typically start in Creede
Colorado Roaring Fork River Class
III/IV
day trip May to September trips typically start near Aspen; the Upper Roaring Fork River is particularly intense
Colorado San Juan River Class
II
3-6 days May to June more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip; typically run in springtime; the majority of this trip is actually in Utah
Colorado San Miguel River Class
II/III
1-5 days May to early July trips typically start in Placerville (near Telluride); "one of the last free-flowing major rivers in the USA"
Colorado Taylor River Class
III/IV
day trip May to August trips typically start in Gunnison or Crested Butte; one section is mostly class III, another section is mostly class II, and the Lotis Creek section is class III/IV
Colorado Uncompahgre River Class
II/III/III+
day trip May to September 15-mile rafting trips typically start in Ridgeway; rafting through Ridgway State Park
Colorado Yampa River Class
III/IV
4-5 days May to early-July this 48-mile trip passes through two states (Colorado & Utah) and Dinosaur National Monument; generally only class IV during the spring snowmelt; most trips are run by companies out of Steamboat Springs; "some of the most scenic class III-IV whitewater on earth"

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN CONNECTICUT

Connecticut doesn't offer much in terms of whitewater, but the Housatonic River at the height of spring snowmelt can pack a nice quick punch.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Connecticut Housatonic River Class
IV
day trip April & May only runs on limited dates in spring

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN GEORGIA

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Georgia Chattahoochee River Class
III/III+
day trip unknown 2.5-mile stretch of river in the heart of Columbus; their website claims class V, but the video doesn't support it
Georgia Chattooga River-Class II Section Class
II
day trip March to November 7-mile run along border of GA & SC; a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River"; the "crown jewel of southeastern rivers"
Georgia Chattooga River-Class III Section Class
III/IV
day trip March to November most popular section of the Chattooga River; runs along GA & SC border; a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River"; the "crown jewel of southeastern rivers"
Georgia Chattooga River-Class IV Section Class
IV
day trip March to November some of the most intense rafting on the East Coast; runs along GA & SC border; a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River"; the "crown jewel of southeastern rivers"

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN IDAHO

Idaho is world-famous for its multi-day rafting expeditions that pass through some of the deepest and most scenic canyons on Earth. Trips down the Snake and/or Salmon Rivers should be on everyone's bucket list. ROW Adventures and OARS are considered two of the premiere commercial guides in the state.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Idaho Bruneau River Class
III/IV
3-5 days May to mid-June  
Idaho Clearwater River-Middle Fork Class
II
day trip July to September more of a float trip than whitewater rafting; one of the original 8 U.S. rivers that were designated "Wild and Scenic" in 1968
Idaho Lochsa River Class
III/IV
1-3 days May to July fast & technical river with 30 substantial rapids in 30 miles
Idaho Moyie River Class
II/III
day trip May to June typically only run in spring
Idaho Payette River-South Fork Class
III/V
day trip May to September  
Idaho Salmon River-Lower Class
II/III
4-5 days May to August  
Idaho Salmon River-Main Class
II/III
5-6 days June to September 80 mile trip
Idaho Salmon River-Middle Fork Class
III/IV
5-6 days June to September 100-mile trip; the most intense rafting on the Salmon River; some of the finest whitewater rafting in the USA; world-famous; "rafting doesn’t get any better than this"
Idaho Selway River-Lower Class
I/II
1-2 days June  
Idaho Snake River/Hells Canyon Class
III/IV
3-6 days May to September passes through the deepest canyon in North America; "nothing compares to Hells Canyon"; some of the finest whitewater rafting in the USA; world-famous rafting; a federal-designated "Wild & Scenic" river; flows through Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Idaho St. Joe River Class
II/III
day trip May to July northern Idaho

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN KENTUCKY

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Kentucky Big Sandy River Class
V/V+
day trip weekends in October the most challenging run in Kentucky and some of the most challenging rafting on the East Coast; only run on limited dates in October
Kentucky Cumberland River Class
III
day trip May to September  
Kentucky Elkhorn Creek-Gorge Section Class
II/III
day trip March to September  

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN MAINE

Maine offers three rivers for whitewater rafting, and it's tough to pick a favorite because they are all a blast. Both the Kennebec and Dead Rivers are run by outfitters that are based off US 201 in or near the town of The Forks, whereas the Penobscot River is run by outfitters out of the Millinocket area. If you are looking for a family-friendly trip, the Kennebec can't be beat. For scenery, the Penobscot River is king. Our favorite commercial guide in the state of Maine is Northern Outdoors (mostly because they have a wonderful lodge, a microbrewery, and plentiful cabin rentals) in the town of The Forks. In addition to Northern Outdoors, NEOC is another highly recommended Maine guiding company.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Maine Dead River Class
IV
day trip May to October limited run dates based on dam releases; the most consistently intense rafting in Maine
Maine Kennebec River Class
IV
day trip May to October run May through October; the most fun family-friendly rafting in New England; includes a swimmable section; look for "high release" dates if you want more exciting rapids.
Maine Penobscot River Class
IV/V
day trip May to September run May through October; the most scenic rafting in New England; close to Baxter State Park; when the water level allows, this trip can include a side trip to a fun natural waterslide

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN MARYLAND

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Maryland Potomac River-Mather Gorge Class
II/III
day trip May to October  
Maryland Youghiogheny River-Upper Class
V/V+
day trip mid-April to Mid-September extremely difficult; only runnable on specific days during the week; a portion of this trip is in Pennsylvania and a portion is in Maryland (the river flows north)

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN MASSACHUSETTS

While the rivers of Massachusetts aren't quite as wild & crazy as the far more famous whitewater rafting rivers of Maine, they are still very much worthy of a run. Zoar Outdoors and CrabApple are the premier rafting guide companies in Massachusetts.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Massachusetts Concord River Class
III/IV
day trip April to May trips are very short in length; typically only run in springtime
Massachusetts Deerfield River-The Dryway Class
IV
day trip May to October the most exciting rafting in Massachusetts; limited release dates; we recommend Zoar Outdoor as guides
Massachusetts Deerfield River-Zoar Gap Class
II/III
day trip May to October we recommend Zoar Outdoor as guides
Massachusetts Millers River Class
III/IV
day trip April to late-May or early June typically run in spring only; we recommend Zoar Outdoor as guides

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN MONTANA

Much of the whitewater rafting action in Montana is centered near Yellowstone National Park. The Montana Whitewater Raft Company is perhaps the premier rafting guide company for the three raftable rivers near Yellowstone (the Yellowstone, Madison & Gallatin Rivers).

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Montana Blackfoot River Class
II/III
1-2 days April to mid-July more than 65 miles of this river can be floated, but rafting trips are typically shorter and last 1-2 days;
Montana Clark Fork River-Alberton Gorge Class
III
day trip April to September some rapids can be class IV in high water
Montana Flathead River-North Fork Class
II
3-4 days May to September more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip; best conditions are typically from mid-to-late May through mid-June; near Glacier National Park
Montana Flathead River-Middle Fork Class
II/III/IV
1-2 days May to September day trips are often around 15-miles in length; near Glacier National Park; some websites this is class III but some say class IV
Montana Gallatin River Class
II/III
day trip May to September some rapids in the "Mad Mile" can be class IV in high water
Montana Madison River Class
III/IV
day trip May to September the class IV "Kitchen Sink-a" rapid is typically optional; tubing trips are often offered on the Lower Madison
Montana Yellowstone River Class
II/III//III+
day trip May to September near the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park; the closest rafting to Yellowstone

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN NEW MEXICO

Rafting in New Mexico is primarily focused around the Rio Grande River. Los Rios River Runners is a fantastic New Mexico-based guiding company.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
New Mexico Rio Charma Class
II
1-3 days April to September more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip
New Mexico Rio Grande River-Taos Box Class
IV
day trip April to July  
New Mexico Rio Grande River-Whiterock Canyon Class
III
2 days April to October  
New Mexico Rio Grande River-Rio Grande Gorge Class
IV/IV+
2-3 days April to July
many sources recommended a trip in May or June
New Mexico Rio Grande River-Racecourse Run Class
III
day trip May to October  

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN NEW YORK

New York offers four rivers for whitewater rafting, and all are located in the upper regions of the state. The best rafting is typically found during the spring snowmelt season, but all three can normally be rafted throughout summer and early Fall.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
New York Black River Class
III/IV/V
day trip May to September difficulty heavily depends upon river levels
New York Hudson River-Upper Gorge Class
III/IV
day trip April to October 17-mile trip from Indian Lake to North Creek
New York Hudson River-Middle Gorge Class
II/III
day trip April to October 18-mile trip from North River to the Glen; this trip can be limited based upon water conditions
New York Hudson River-Lower Gorge Class
I/II
day trip April to October 18-mile trip from Warrensburg to Lake Luzerne ; this trip can be limited based upon water conditions
New York Moose River-Middle Class
III
day trip May to October  
New York Moose River-Lower Class
IV/V
day trip April only only runnable at or near the peak of snowmelt; prior rafting experience required
New York Sacandaga River Class
III
day trip June to September near Lake George

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN NORTH CAROLINA

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
North Carolina Cheoah River Class
IV/V
day trip April to October very limited release dates; "the most difficult whitewater in the Southeast"; rafters should be good swimmers and in good shape
North Carolina French Broad River Class
III/IV
day trip March to October half day (class II/III) and full day (III/IV) trips are offered, ranging from 5-9 miles; close to Asheville (one of the greatest mid-sized cities in the USA)
North Carolina Nantahala River Class
II/III
day trip April to October  
North Carolina Watauga River Class
III
day trip unknown  

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN OREGON

Oregon offers some of the finest day and multi-day rafting trips in the United States.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Oregon Clackmas River Class
III/IV
day trip March to August the optimal time to run this river is said to be in spring or early summer; rapids are likely to only be class III or perhaps class III+ in summer
Oregon Deschutes River Class
IV
1-3 days May to October a 2 or 3 day trip will cover about 40 miles; a "Wild and Scenic River"; "one of the most impressive gorges in the west"
Oregon Hood River-East Fork Class
III/IV
day trip November to April or May  
Oregon Hood River-West Fork Class
IV/V
day trip November to April or May "one of the best Class 4 rivers in Oregon"; offered a 1/2 day and full-day trips
Oregon Illinois River Class
IV/V
4 days April to early-May known for its isolation/solitude; eleven class IV rapids and one class V; only a limited amount of trips go down this river, so book early
Oregon John Day River Class
II
4-5 days April to June a designated "Wild and Scenic River"
Oregon Klamath River-Upper Class
IV/IV+
day trip April to September near Ashland in southern Oregon; "over 30 major class III to IV+ rapids"; a designated "Wild & Scenic" river
Oregon Klickitat River Class
III+
day trip April to June  
Oregon McKenzie River Class
III
1-2 days April to October some guides offer separate lower and upper section trips; an overnight trip travels the 25 best miles along the river
Oregon Molalla River Class
III/IV
day trip "winter or early spring" only run by the Blue Sky Rafting company
Oregon North Santium River Class
III
day trip April to September in summer, the rapids drop to II/II+
Oregon Owyhee River-Middle Class
IV+
3 days late-March to early-May "some of the biggest rapids in the Northwest"
Oregon Owyhee River-Lower Class
III/IV
4-6 days March to June OARS offers a 6-day trip; some of this trip may actually be in Idaho; "one of the most spectacular desert rivers in the U.S.A."; "Oregon's most dramatic whitewater river"; a passage through "Oregon's Grand Canyon"; most sources say this is class III but at least one says IV
Oregon Rogue River Class
III/IV
1-5 days May to October some sources say this is class III, while others says class IV
Oregon Sandy River Gorge Class
IV/IV+
day trip March to mid-June "one of the most beautiful and challenging runs in Oregon"; only an hour from Portland; trips are sometimes run in October and November if water-levels permit; previous rafting experience and good condition recommended
Oregon Umpqua River-North Fork Class
IV
1-2 days April to September one class IV rapid and lots of class II/III rapids
Oregon White Salmon River Class
IV
day trip March to November  
Oregon Wind River Class
IV/V
day trip April to June previous rafting experience required

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN PENNSYLVANIA

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Pennsylvania Cheat River Class
IV/V
day trip April to June  
Pennsylvania Youghiogheny River-Lower Class
III/IV
day trip March to October most popular rafting section on the "Yough"
Pennsylvania Youghiogheny River-Middle Class
II
day trip March to October more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip
Pennsylvania Youghiogheny River-Upper Class
V/V+
day trip mid-April to Mid-September extremely difficult; only runnable on specific days during the week; a portion of this trip is in Pennsylvania and a portion is in Maryland (the river flows north)

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN SOUTH CAROLINA

The Chattooga River begins its journey in North Carolina and actually creates the border between Georgia & South Carolina. There are several different sections that can be run on this classic rafting river.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
South Carolina Chattooga River-Class II Section Class
II
day trip March to November 7-mile run along border of GA & SC; a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River"; the "crown jewel of southeastern rivers"
South Carolina Chattooga River-Class III Section Class
III/IV
day trip March to November most popular section of the Chattooga River; runs along GA & SC border; a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River"; the "crown jewel of southeastern rivers"
South Carolina Chattooga River-Class IV Section Class
IV
day trip March to November some of the most intense rafting on the East Coast; runs along GA & SC border; a U.S. "Wild and Scenic River"; the "crown jewel of southeastern rivers"

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN TENNESSEE

Tennessee offers the Ocoee River, which is one of the premier (and most famous) whitewater rafting day trips in America. Many different guide companies provide trips of various lengths and difficulties.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Tennessee Nolichucky River-Nolichucky Gorge Class
III/IV
1-2 days early-March to mid-June 25 named rapids from class II-IV; "one of the top rafting adventures in the East"
Tennessee Nolichucky River-Lower Class
I/II
day trip early-March to mid-June  
Tennessee Ocoee River-Middle Class
III/IV
day trip March to November 5-mile trip; some of the best rafting on the East Coast;
Tennessee Ocoee River-Upper Class
IV/IV+
day trip weekends only; mid-May to mid-September 5 mile trip; some of the best rafting on the East Coast; somewhat limited run dates; site of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater competition
Tennessee Ocoee River-Middle & Upper Class
IV/IV+
day trip weekends only; mid-May to mid-September 10 mile trip combines Upper & Middle sections; "the finest full day of continuous Class III and IV whitewater action in the Southeast"
Tennessee Pigeon River-Lower Class
II
day trip Memorial Day to Labor Day 5-mile trip; season is often extended for weekends only after Labor Day (water-level permitting)
Tennessee Pigeon River-Upper Class
III/IV
day trip Memorial Day to Labor Day class varies based on water levels (some people will only experience class II or III while others will have class IV); season is often extended for weekends only after Labor Day (water-level permitting)

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN TEXAS

The Rio Grande offers the best whitewater rafting within the state of Texas, and trips last anywhere from one to six days in duration. There are a few other rivers in Texas than can be rafted, but they are often heavily water-level dependent and many of these rivers don't have any formalized commercial guiding operations.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Texas Rio Grande-Santa Elena Canyon Class
II
2 days Year-Round
(but best in winter/spring)
travels through Big Bend National Park along the Texas/Mexico border; best in winter/spring (summer = too hot)
Texas Rio Grande-Boquillas Canyon Class
II
3-4 days Year-Round
(but best in winter/spring)
this 36-mile trip is best in winter/spring (summer = too hot); "more renowned for its scenic beauty than for a technical, bumpy ride"
Texas Rio Grande-Colorado Canyon Class
II
1-2 days Year-Round
(but best in winter/spring)
in high water, some of the rapids can be class III; best in winter/spring (summer = too hot)

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN UTAH

Utah is perhaps more famous for its relatively gentle float trips than for its whitewater adventures. However, there is still some intense rafting to be found, especially in Cataract Canyon along the Colorado River. If you enjoy multi-day rafting expeditions, you'll find some of the best trips in the USA in Utah.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Utah Colorado River-Westwater Canyon Class
III/IV
2 days May to September awarded the “West’s Best Short Whitewater Trip” by National Geographic
Utah Colorado River-Cataract Canyon Class
IV
4-6 days May to September  
Utah Green River-Flaming Gorge Class
II
3 days May to September more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip
Utah Green River-Desolation Canyon Class
II/III
5 days May to September more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip
Utah Green River-Lodore Canyon Class
II/III
3-5 days May to September this is more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip; floats through Dinosaur National Monument; mostly in Colorado but a portion is also in Utah
Utah Green River-Split Mountain Canyon Class
III
day trip May to September offered by Don Hatch River Expeditions; appears to be 100% in Utah but perhaps a portion is in Colorado?
Utah San Juan River Class
II
3-6 days May to June more of a float trip than a whitewater rafting trip; typically run in springtime; some trips also include a portion in Colorado
Utah Yampa River Class
III/IV
4-5 days May to June or early-July trip passes through two states (Colorado & Utah); generally only class IV during the spring snowmelt

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN VERMONT

The West River is the only commercially guided rafting river in Vermont, and even then, it's only run on limited spring and fall weekends.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Vermont West River Class
III/IV
day trip two specific weekends
per year
mostly class III rapids; limited release dates (typically one weekend in late April/early May and one weekend in late September/early October); Zoar Outdoors and CrabApple are two highly recommended guiding companies.

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN VIRGINIA

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Virginia James River-Lower Class
IV
day trip April to July class depends heavily upon water levels; "the only whitewater rafting through a major U.S. city"
Virginia James River-Upper Class
II
day trip April to July class depends heavily upon water levels; "the only whitewater rafting through a major U.S. city"
Virginia James River-Combined (Lower + Upper) Class
IV
day trip April to July combines both the Lower & Upper sections; this trip is sometimes called "Falls of the James River"

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN WASHINGTON

Washington offers a strong variety of full day and half day rafting trips. The commercial guide River Rider offers a variety of day trips on several rivers in Washington.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Washington Elwha River Class
II/II+
day trip April to September Olympic Mountains scenery; 6-mile trip; a dam was recently removed on this river, so the season may change in the future
Washington Elwha River-Elwha Canyon Class
III/IV
day trip April to September Olympic Mountains scenery; 9-mile trip; a dam was recently removed on this river, so the season may change in the future; waterflow typically has to be below 1500cfs
Washington Hoh River Class
II
day trip February to October go early in the season for more challenging water levels
Washington Klickitat River Class
III/IV
day trip April to June 15-mile trip in remote wilderness
Washington Methow River Class
III/IV
day trip late-April to early-August 11.5 mile trip near Lake Chelan
Washington Nooksack River Class
III/IV
day trip late May to August 9-mile trip on river fed by the water & glaciers of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan; late May or June is considered the wildest and best time to raft
Washington Sauk River Class
III/III+
day trip April to early August 7-9-mile trips; some outfitters run trips in late March as well
Washington Skagit River-Upper Class
II/III
day trip April to October 10-mile trips near Ross Lake; peak season is August & September
Washington Skykomish River Class
IV/V
day trip April to early August 8-9 mile trips; closest rafting to Seattle (1hr away); the only class V rapid ("Boulder Drop") is actually class IV if water is less than 7,000cfs; class I float trips are also offered on the Skykomish; the "Big Daddy" of Washington rafting
Washington Sol Duc River Class
III
day trip February to June  
Washington Spokane River Class
III
day trip May to August runs through Riverside Sate Park; close to downtown Spokane
Washington Suiattle River Class
III
day trip July & August  
Washington Tieton River Class
III/IV
day trip September limited 15-mile runs in September only
Washington Wenatchee River Class
II/III/IV
day trip April to October perhaps Washington's most popular rafting trip; from April to early July, the river is typically class III/IV and is a 14-mile journey; from early July through October, the river is typically II/III and is a 6-mile journey
Washington White Salmon River Class
III/IV
day trip April to September also has an optional class V rapid; 8-mile trip

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN WEST VIRGINIA

West Virginia's whitewater rafting is infamous, mostly because of the fall season trips on the Gauley River. If you want to raft the Gauley, make reservations as far in advance as possible.

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
West Virginia Gauley River-Lower Class
III/IV/V
day trip September to October only some of the finest whitewater rafting in the USA; as advanced as a river gets for a 1st time whitewater rafter; less intense than the Upper Gauley; make reservations well in advance as this is a classic river trip
West Virginia Gauley River-Upper Class
IV/V/V+
day trip September to October some of the finest whitewater rafting in the USA; prior experience heavily recommended for this "Upper Gauley" trip; make reservations well in advance as this is a classic river trip
West Virginia Gauley River-Upper & Lower Class
IV/V/V+
2 days September to October this is the classic West Virginia rafting adventure; a 26 mile trip through 100 rapids (53 of which are rated class III or higher); includes the Upper river, which requires previous rafting experience; make reservations well in advance as this is a classic river trip
West Virginia New River-Lower Class
IV/IV+
day trip May to September this portion of the New River is often called the "Grand Canyon of the East"; views of the 876-foot tall New River Gorge Bridge (popular with BASE jumpers)
West Virginia New River-Upper Class
III
day trip May to September swimming opportunities

WHITEWATER RAFTING IN WYOMING

STATE RIVER RATING DURATION SEASON NOTES
Wyoming Snake River Class
II/III
day trips May to September there are several varieties of rafting trips offered on the Snake River near the Jackson, Wyoming area, and they typically range from 8-21 miles in length

TOP TEN WHITEWATER RAFTING DAY TRIPS IN THE USA

Here are the top 10 whitewater rafting day trips in the United States. To be honest, though, it's difficult to pick make such a top ten list because how can you really compare one river to the next? Anyway, we've intentionally excluded the class V/V+ extreme rafting trips that require strong skills/experience (like Cherry Creek in California).

American River, California
Arkansas River-Royal Gorge, Colorado
Chattooga River, Georgia & South Carolina
French Broad River, North Carolina
Gauley River, West Virginia
Kern River, California
New River, West Virginia
Ocoee River, Tennessee
Penobscot River, Maine
Wenatchee River, Washington

Runner-ups: Nenana River, Alaska; Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania; Dead River, Maine; Deschutes River, Oregon

TOP MULTI-DAY WHITEWATER RAFTING EXPEDITIONS

These multi-day rafting expeditions are world-class. Take at least one of these trips at some point in your life (preferably sooner rather than later because you may discover you want to do more).

Alsek River, Alaska
Colorado River, Arizona
Colorado River, Utah
Green River, Colorado
Green River, Utah
Owyhee River-Lower, Oregon
Rogue River, Oregon
Salmon River-Middle Fork, Idaho
Snake River-Hells Canyon, Idaho
Talkeetna River, Alaska
Tana River, Alaska
Tatshenshini River, Alaska
Yampa River, Utah & Colorado

TOP TEN U.S. STATES FOR WHITEWATER RAFTING

Here are the best states for whitewater rafting in the United States:

Alaska
Arizona
California
Colorado
Idaho
Maine
Oregon
Tennessee
Washington
West Virginia

Runner-ups: Texas, North Carolina

INTERNATIONAL RAFTING SCALE OF DIFFICULTY

From the Safety Code of the American Whitewater Affiliation:

Class I: Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.

Class III: Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.

Class IV: Advanced. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable wave and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require "must" moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong eskimo roll is highly recommended.

Class V: Expert. Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to above average endangerment. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes, or steep congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies may exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is mandatory but often difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is difficult even for experts. A very reliable eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential for survival.

Class VI: Extreme. One grade more difficult than Class V. These runs often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. This class does not represent drops thought to be unrunnable, but may include rapids which are only occasionally run.

HELPFUL LINKS

OARS
Rafting.com
Raftwet.com
Wikipedia's List of Whitewater Rivers
20 Legendary Whitewater Rivers


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Kennebec River, Maine




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