6 Whitewater Rafting Trips to Explore

Rafting Terms

View of the Grand Canyon from the below.

1. Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting Guide

There are few rivers more fabled than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. The length of a journey down the canyon provides unbelievable scenery and world-class whitewater. As a result this a bucket-list trip for most boaters. Summer trips offer big whitewater, and searing temperatures. Many private boaters prefer the shoulder seasons when temperatures are moderate, and the whitewater remains plenty big. Because of this the commercial rafting season for the Grand is April to October. There are non-commercial permits available during this period. Private boaters will likely be sharing the river with commercial trips during this period. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado is an intermediate-advanced stretch of river in terms of whitewater difficulty.

Whitewater rafting down the Kern river.

2. Kern River Whitewater Guide

This guide is broken into three sections: the Upper Kern River, Lower Kern River, and Forks of the Kern River. Melting from Mount Whitney and then barreling through the Forks of the Kern. The Upper Kern section begins at Johnsondale Bridge and ends at Lake Isabella. The Upper Kern is well known for two reasons. It has plentiful access and a variety of whitewater from Class II to Class V. When the weather warms up the water knob gets turned and the Lower Kern begins to flow. In regular years the season is from May through August. Isabella Lake is relatively shallow, and as a result the water temperature is comfortable and not frigid. Top to bottom this river section is straight forward class II through IV, with one portage around a Class VI, the Royal Flush. When the water is right, the Forks of the Kern presents some of the most scenic, toughest, and fun boating in the West. Unimpeded by dams, the flows are highly variable year to year which makes the season hard to predict as it is snowpack and subsequent melt dependent. However, when the Forks is flowing, the water is clear, cool, and full of big, fun whitewater. Top to bottom this river section contains stout class IV, the occasional class V, and very little downtime.

Campsite near the Middle Fork of the Salmon river.

3. Middle Fork of the Salmon Whitewater Guide

Arguably the best multi-day rafting trip in America, is the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. It hits all the high points on every mark. It has incredible scenery, spectacular fishing, hot springs, fun rapids, excellent hiking, beautiful campgrounds, moderate temperatures, and the list goes on. This guide is for a 4 to 8 day trip from Boundary Creek to Cache Bar. It covers all listed camps, rapids, hot springs, and airstrips. Most points of interest are listed such as pictographs, hikes, and interesting stops.

Whitewater rafting down the Rio Futaleufu.

4. Río Futaleufú Whitewater Guide

With clear glacial waters descending from the mountains in Argentina, cutting a distinct path through the Chilean Andes, long days on Río Futaleufú can feel like something out of a dream. The snow capped mountains anchoring the skyline, lush forests pushing up tight against the banks, and abundant fish swimming in the clear water.  Because of this the “Futa” is worth a visit even if it doesn’t have whitewater. But, thankfully, it does. In fact, some of the best whitewater you will find anywhere on the planet, and it runs every day of the year.

For many visitors, the Futa will be a trip years in the making. Elite kayakers exploring Chile’s bountiful whitewater stop on the Futa to play in its massive features and test themselves among famous rapids like Throne Room and Terminator. Lifelong rafters have heard legends about the Futa and are eager to experience one of the top raftable rivers on the planet. However, travelers who aren’t yet self-sufficient will likely find themselves surrounded by an expert team of local guides, in both rafts and kayaks. Ensuring the journey lives up to expectations, the quality of guiding and emphasis on safety on the Futaleufú is world class. The Futalefú truly has something for all river lovers and is well worth the long trek down to Patagonia.

Going down some whitewater on the Upper Klamath.

5. Upper Klamath Whitewater Guide

The Upper Klamath is a challenging Class II-IV+ run, with almost continuous whitewater rafting. This is because it is just downstream of the J.C. Boyle Powerhouse and Dam, which releases water from Klamath Lake. While there are sections that are mellow Class II and III, there are numerous other challenges such as strainers, and sieves. This guide outlines the most common run of the Upper Klamath River from the Spring Island Klamath River Access to Access #6.

kayakers whitewater raftin on the Rogue river.

6. Wild & Scenic Rogue River Whitewater Guide

The Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River is the most popular multi-day whitewater rafting trip on the West Coast, and for good reason. It has amazing wildlife, fun rapids, warm water, and easy camping. This guide outlines the most common run on the Rogue River from Grave Creek to Foster Bar. It also includes the “Red Stretch” of the Rogue River. This stretch of the Rogue River is the immediate section above the Wild and Scenic corridor of the Rogue River. It is done either as a mellow full day (or shorter) or as an add-on to the multi-day portion of the Rogue as it feeds right into the Wild and Scenic section.