White water rafting is quickly growing in popularity, as it is an excellent way to enjoy an area’s natural beauty while exercising and going on an adventure. Depending on who you ask, the definition of the best white water rafting destinations in the US will vary. Some people prefer calm rafting in Class I rapids while others prefer a challenge such as Class V or Class VI.
No matter the level of difficulty you look for in a rafting destination, there are plenty of beautiful and exciting options in the country. While white water rafting, you get to enjoy gorgeous natural scenery, making the activity perfect for relaxing after a long week of work.
Some people will go rafting for a day, while others spend a weekend, and yet others plan an entire week-long get-a-way to enjoy this activity. Amateurs and professionals alike can enjoy a day of rafting.
To help peak your interest, here are some of the best white water rafting destinations in the United States. Even better than just listing the locations, each destination is accompanied by one of the most captivating images from the river, giving you a glimpse of what you can expect when you go rafting there.
1. Green River
The Green River is the Colorado River’s tributary. This 730 mile river extends from western Wyoming to Utah, briefly passing through Colorado along the way. You even get to see part of the Dinosaur National Monument in Utah while rafting.
2. Nenana River
The Nenana River is the eastern boundary of the Denali National Park. Throughout its length, you’ll find adventure levels for everyone, with easier rapids closer to the beginning and Class IV rapids along Nenana Gorge.
3. Salmon River
This river covers 20 miles along northern California and 34 miles in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. There is also a 425 mile long segment in Idaho, with multiple rafting runs.
4. Chattooga River
This particular Chattooga River begins in North Carolina, traveling to northeastern’s Georgia’s Lake Tugalo. You will find everything from calm pools to exciting rapids along the way. If you’ve seen the movie “Deliverance”, you will recognize some of the rapids.
5. American River
This river near Sacramento has a calm section for tubing, but also a more challenging area for white water rafting. The South, Middle, and North Forks are class III, IV, and V, respectively.
6. Flathead River
This river travels through the Canadian Rockies, Montana, and the Columbia River. The river is cold, but if you want natural beauty and class I rapids, then consider visiting it.
7. Rogue River
The Rogue River is in southwest Oregon and covers around 215 miles from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean. Check out the 35-mile Grants Pass with class III rapids and some easier bits as well.
8. Deerfield River
Although it is only 76 miles, the Deerfield River, a Connecticut River tributary, is beautiful and popular. You will find white water rafting, boating, fishing, and swimming depending on where you are. There are also class II and III sections.
9. Colorado River
No set of white water rafting images is complete without the Colorado River. It covers the Grand Canyon and the Gulf of California. Just keep in mind that you may need to wait a few years to get the chance to go rafting here.
10. Rio Grande
This US river doubles as a portion of the U.S border with Mexico. It starts in Colorado and travels 1,800 miles south. You can take day rafting trips or opt for a longer adventure.
11. Deschutes River
This Oregon river has many chutes and falls, giving you a wild adventure while rafting. In addition to the thrills of Elevator Rapids, you also get to enjoy rock formations from lava and beautiful scenery.
12. New River
Source: Adventures on the Gorge
This white water rafting destination is a favorite of West Virginians. It includes class III to V rapids and views of the Appalachians and New River Gorge Bridge.
13. Gauley River
Source: Adventures on the Gorge
Another West Virginian destination, this river is great for rafting year round. For an added challenge, time your visit during Gauley Season, just after water from Summersville Dam is released at Labor Day, but be prepared for global crowds.
14. Tuolumne River
This river in California includes 27 miles for rafting and starts in Yosemite National Park. Beautiful photos show you the wilderness interspersed with class IV and class V rapids.
15. Royal Gorge
This segment of the Arkansas River in Colorado is perfect for class IV or V rapids depending on water levels. There are also options for paddling and a raft and ride trip.
16. Arkansas River
Aside from the Royal Gorge, the rest of the Arkansas River also makes a great rafting destination. While rafting, you can view peaks taller than 14,000 feet and the beautiful Royal Gorge canyon.
17. Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole in Wyoming provides the perfect combination of paddling, big waves, calmer waters, and of course, beautiful canyon scenery.
18. Tatshenshini River
This river travels along the border of Alaska and Canada, so although it is barely in the US, it is part of the country. You get to see icebergs and glaciers while going white water rafting.
19. Alsek River
Close to the Tatshenshini River, also between Alaska and Canada, the Alsek River provides a similar experience, with the chance to spot wildlife, watch fresh salmon, and go white water rafting.
20. Dead River And Kennebec River
These two rivers are connected and run through Maine. While the Kennebec River is almost always open during the summer, the Dead River is only open on select dates, requiring some planning.
The Youghiogheny or Yough is one of the most popular white water rafting rivers in the East and travels through Pennsylvania and Maryland. There are segments for all experience levels so beginners, intermediate, and advanced rafters will all have fun.
22. Klamath River
The Klamath River sits close to the border between California and Oregon. Over its 187 miles, you will find over a thousand choices for Class IV to V rapids.
23. Nantahala River
In North Carolina, you’ll find the Nantahala River, which includes Class II to III rapids. After rafting, you can even sit back and enjoy the scenery at the nearby outdoor center.
24. Cumberland River
The Cumberland River in Kentucky has some wild parts when you go through Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Stunning images show house-sized boulders and plenty of rapids.
25. Lochsa River
To visit the Lochsa River in the image, head to Idaho. This river includes 40 different class III to IV rapids combined with a longer and larger river. There are even planned trips you can sign up for to take advantage of the rafting destination.