Top 10 Best Places to Go Whitewater Rafting in the USA

Our guides at Barker Ewing are seasoned whitewater rafting enthusiasts. Ask us about the best destinations for rafting in the United States and we’ll all have different opinions to share, but these 10 consistently rank at the top of our lists.

1. Snake River (Wyoming)

Naturally, our number one choice is the Snake River. Where else can you enjoy the exhilaration of whitewater rafting while also taking in some of the most stunning scenery in the United States? Forests, mountains, and a variety of wildlife make whitewater rafting on the Snake River a must for visitors to Jackson Hole.

2. Colorado River (Arizona)

The Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon, making it another excellent choice for whitewater rafters who appreciate having some scenic views to go along with their rafting trip. The Colorado River has rapids suitable for beginners all the way to experts.

3. Gauley River (West Virginia)

West Virginia’s Gauley River is one not to miss if you’re an experienced whitewater rafter. Its stretch of Class V+ rapids is one of the most difficult in the country. Gauley River is the heart of East Coast rafting culture and a destination for rafters from around the world.

4. Salmon River (Idaho)

The Western United States is home to many well-known whitewater rafting destinations and Salmon River is yet another to add to the list. In addition to the rafting, the Salmon River area is a great destination for its natural hot springs and campsites.

5. Kennebec River (Maine)

While whitewater rafting opportunities aren’t quite as plentiful in the Northeast, Kennebec River in Maine is a local favorite that’s worth the trip if you’re in the area. There are Class III and Class IV rapids here, along with a dramatic drop known as Magic Falls.

6. Youghiogheny River (Pennsylvania)

We’re still not quite sure how to pronounce it, but this Pennsylvania river lies just south of Pittsburgh and it’s well-loved for its long season and rapids that suit just about every experience level.

7. Arkansas River (Colorado and Arkansas)

The Arkansas River flows through a glacial valley and gorges, allowing you to experience leisurely floats and thrilling rapids all in the same trip. Nearby towns have no shortage of restaurants and bars to enjoy when you’re not on the river, and also opportunities for hiking and biking in the Rockies.

8. Rogue River (Oregon)

The name says it all—Oregon’s Rogue River has some of the Pacific Northwest’s most challenging rapids, with Class V Rainie Falls being one of its best-known attractions for seasoned rafters. The river winds through pristine forested canyons for an experience that’s quite different than the whitewater rafting found further south.

9. Nenana River (Alaska)

If you enjoy whitewater rafting on the Snake River, you’ll also have a great time on the Nenana River in Alaska. It flows through Denali National Park and you’re likely to spot eagles, wild sheep, and other wildlife along its banks during your trip.

10. Chattooga River (Georgia)

The Chattooga River is perhaps the most popular rafting destination in the Southeast, with challenging Class V rapids in the spring when the mountain snows melt. The beauty of this river is undeniable and the surrounding area is full of outdoor adventures.

Book a Whitewater Rafting Trip on the Snake River

If you’re planning a visit to Jackson Hole, don’t miss whitewater rafting on the Snake River. Book your trip online or give us a call at 307-733-1000 to learn more.

Understanding the Whitewater Classification Scale

Even if you’re the type who’s always up for a challenge, it’s important not to get in over your head when you’re whitewater rafting. (If you get in over your head figuratively, you’re more likely to get in over your head literally when you’re out on the water!) Here’s what you should know about the whitewater classification scale before your whitewater rafting trip.

Whitewater Classification Scale: The Basics

Rivers are rated on a class scale that ranges from I to VI, with I being the calmest and VI being the most difficult to traverse. Here’s a brief description of each level.

Class I

Class I describes a river with little-to-no waves and a current that pulls the raft along at a calm, relaxing clip. If you’ve been on a scenic float tour, that’s about the same pace you can expect from Class I waters.

Class II

Class II waters are essentially easy rapids—waves may be up to three feet tall, but they’re easily spotted and channels are wide enough to discover without the need for scouting.

Class III

If you’re looking for a thrill without too much of a risk, Class III is for you. Sections of river that are Class III have waves that are up to four feet high and narrow passages. Expect to get wet!

Class IV

Now we’re onto the classes that require a bit more experience to navigate. Class IV has difficult rapids in addition to narrow passages. There’s turbulent water and the stretches of rapids are long.

Class V

Class V waters have large waves, complex rapids, and you can expect your raft to spin and twist as you make your way downriver.

Class VI

These are expert-level stretches of river that include extreme rapids that are essentially unrunnable and even the occasional waterfall. You won’t find any outfitters organizing trips here—they’re strictly for the most experienced daredevil adventurers.

It’s important to note that the whitewater classification scale is fluid. (No pun intended!) A long river may have sections that rate a Class I on the scale in flat valleys and others that are a Class VI near headwaters in more mountainous areas. Additionally, different times of year and different weather conditions may change the classification. After snow melts in the springtime and after large amounts of rainfall, a river may be a notch higher in the whitewater classification scale than under normal conditions.

Snake River Whitewater Classification

The stretch of Snake River used for Barker Ewing whitewater rafting trips is rated Class III. Some sections may be Class II and others a Class IV in times with a significant amount of run-off, but prior to your trip, we’ll alert you to current river conditions that you should be aware of.

With a Class III rating, you can expect a fun time out on the water—without the danger of a Class V or Class VI river. Class III is excellent for whitewater rafters of all ages and experience levels.

Book a Jackson Hole Scenic Float Trip

Contact us today at 307-733-1000 to learn more about our Snake River whitewater rafting trips or book online now to reserve a spot. We look forward to seeing you in beautiful Jackson Hole!

Whitewater Rafting vs. Scenic Float Trip: Which Should I Choose?

Whitewater Rafting vs. Scenic Float Trip: Which Should I Choose?

Looking for outdoor recreation ideas for this summer? If you’re planning your summer vacation, one of the best ways to stay cool while enjoying a beautiful natural landscape is to spend some time on the water. Wyoming, especially Jackson Hole, has some amazing scenery (like The Grand Tetons) along the Snake River. Parts of the river are full of rapids for exciting whitewater rafting adventures, while other parts are calmer, allowing you to drift along lazily in the cool water while enjoying the beauty around you.

If both of these options sound nice, it may be hard to decide which option is right for you. Read on for more detailed descriptions of what each experience is like to help you decide which type of trip you would prefer.

White Water Rafting 

The Snake River in Jackson Hole, WY is one of the best places for white water rafting. With rapids ranging from class I to VI (with I being calm water and V being large rapids) you’ll experience an ideal mix of exciting rapids and calm waters to rest your arms.

White river rafting is a thrill-seeker’s dream. The boat will hit rapids like a brick wall, rise over the top and fall back down to the water like a roller coaster, and potentially even flip over. You will certainly get wet, it’s just a matter of how wet.

Even so, whitewater rafting is very safe. You’ll wear a helmet and a life jacket. Falling out of the boat is common and not a big deal.

Benefits of Whitewater Adventures

  • Fun and excitement. If you like adventure, you’re sure to like whitewater rafting. There is nothing boring about it. You’ll be kept busy paddling, experience the ride of your life, and all with an excellent view of the Grand Teton Mountains.
  • Family bonding. Family river rafting is quality time together that doesn’t involve a screen. Working as a team to paddle your raft is one of the best ways to bond with each other, even siblings who seem to never get along. Children as young as 6 years old can participate in rafting when the water level is low enough.
  • Team building. Group rafting trips are a great team-building exercise for coworkers, church groups, and other teams of people. Working together toward a common cause (paddling the boat and conquering the rapids) is an effective way to strengthen the bonds between members of a group.
  • Appropriate for beginners and those with experience. You don’t have to have whitewater rafting experience to go on a guided adventure. You can learn everything you need to know before you get in the raft and during the trip itself.

Scenic Float Trip

If you’re looking for a scenic view while you gently drift down the river, a scenic float trip may be just right for you. You’ll have amazing views of the Grand Tetons as well as plenty of wildlife sightings along the way.

You can expect to stay dry during this trip, so feel free to bring along your camera to capture the scenery and wildlife you spot along the way. There’s virtually no chance of your boat turning over or getting caught in the rapids.

This is a relaxing trip. Nothing strenuous, no paddling involved. Your guide will paddle as needed and gently steer the boat down the calmer waters of the Snake River. You can take the half-day trip or the full day trip, depending on the time you have available.

Benefits of the Scenic Float Trip

  • Time to enjoy the scenery. Jackson Hole float trips move at a much slower pace. You’ll have time to take in all the beautiful views around you and even capture photos if you wish.
  • Relaxing. Do you prefer your vacations to be restful and peaceful? The Grand Teton float trip will be very laid back. You can sit back and relax and take deep breaths of crisp mountain air as your boat gently bobs and floats on the water.
  • Appropriate for children as young as 4. Some Teton scenic float tours allow children as young as 4 to go along while others require children to be at least 6. If you want an excursion that will allow younger children to participate, the float trip would be a better option than whitewater rafting.
  • Appropriate for older adults. For adults who would find whitewater rafting too strenuous, the Snake River scenic float trip would be more pleasurable.

Still, Having Trouble Choosing? Try Both

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between the two types of excursions. Barker Ewing Whitewater is one of the best places for white water rafting and scenic float tours alike in Jackson Hole, WY. We offer white water rafting for beginners as well as experienced paddlers so that everyone can have a good time.

Call us to book your trip or if you have any questions! 800-448-4202

What to Wear on Your Whitewater Rafting or Scenic Float Trip

One of the most common questions we get asked by people who are booking a Jackson Hole whitewater rafting or scenic float trip is what they should wear on their excursion. Above all else, the one requirement for both trips is that you should wear something comfortable. Other than that, the two experiences couldn’t be any more different. Here’s what you should know before your rafting trip.

What Do You Wear on a Float Trip?

Many people wonder if they’re going to get wet on a Snake River scenic float trip. Nope! There’s no splashing on this trip—if that’s what you’re after, we recommend a whitewater rafting trip instead. A scenic float trip takes place on calm waters, allowing you to enjoy the view as you leisurely float down the river.

It can be chilly on the river even in the summertime, so bring an extra layer of clothes if you’re going on one of the morning or lunch trips. Both your clothes and your shoes should be comfortable, and shoes should also be soft-soled. Wear sunscreen and bring the bottle with you; also bring a hat and sunglasses if you have them.

What Should I Take on a Float Trip?

In addition to sun protection, you are welcome to bring your camera (or smartphone) and binoculars.

What Do You Wear White Water Rafting in Jackson Hole?

The main difference between a Snake River float trip and whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole is that with whitewater rafting, you can expect to get wet! If it’s a warm summer day, you can wear a swimsuit or lightweight synthetic fabrics that dry quickly like nylon or polypropylene. When the weather is a bit cooler, you can rent neoprene wetsuits, river booties, and fleece.

You’ll need shoes that fit securely on your feet—no flip-flops, but make sure you’re wearing shoes you don’t mind getting them wet. We provide complimentary splash jackets and pants too.

What Do You Need for Whitewater Rafting?

Leave your camera, binoculars, and phone behind—you don’t want them to get wet and you won’t have much of a chance to use them anyway when you’re riding the rapids. Do bring a towel and dry clothes to change into once your whitewater rafting trip is done. The drive back to Jackson is 40 minutes and you won’t want to be sitting in wet clothes the entire time! It’s also a good idea to bring sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays.

Book a Whitewater Rafting or Scenic Float Trip in Jackson Hole

If you’d like to learn more about our whitewater rafting trips or scenic float tours, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions. Ready to reserve your place on one of our rafts? Book now and we’ll see you soon!

What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Jackson Hole?

No matter what time of year you visit Jackson Hole, you’ll find no shortage of fun activities to keep you busy. In fact, there’s so much to do here, you could probably visit during every season and have a completely different experience each time! Here are some common questions we get from visitors planning their trips to Jackson Hole.

What Is the Best Month to Visit Wyoming?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to do. Do you and your family love winter sports like downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding? If that’s the case, then you’ll want to visit Jackson Hole during the winter months. Your best chances of visiting when there’s snow on the ground are in December, January, and February; November and March are iffier and sometimes if you’re very lucky, you might encounter snow during the last half of October and the first half of April.

As with many other vacation destinations in the United States, June through August are the most popular months for visiting Wyoming. The weather is warm, kids are out of school, and it’s the perfect time for partaking in outdoor activities like hiking, exploring national parks, mountain biking, and, of course, rafting. Whether you’re interested in the adventure of white water rafting Jackson Hole or a leisurely Snake River float trip where you can enjoy the scenery and spot local wildlife, our offerings are popular with all visitors to the area, from scouts, family reunions, and even wedding groups.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t visit in fall or spring either, though—although the weather is a bit cooler, there are fewer tourists during these times, so if you’re not fond of crowds, this might be the perfect time to plan your trip. Our whitewater rafting and scenic float trips both run during spring and fall months too.

What Is Jackson Hole Famous For?

Jackson Hole is best known for skiing and snowboarding. In fact, Jackson Hole is considered to have some of the best terrain in North America for these winter sports and the ski resorts in town are a testament to how popular winter activities are in the area.

Winter sports are not the only reason to love Jackson Hole. There’s the scenic Snake River, the mountains, national parks, and even a lively arts scene in the city.

How Many Days Do You Need in Grand Teton?

Most visitors plan for spending two or three days in Grand Teton National Park, but it depends on how much you enjoy outdoor activities, what else you have planned for your trip, and how long your stay in Jackson Hole is.

What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Grand Teton National Park?

To get the most out of your trip, it’s best to visit between mid-May and late September. During this time, all of the park’s activities, visitor centers, and hiking trails are open and available to the general public.

Learn More About Visiting Jackson Hole

We love helping visitors to Jackson Hole learn about the area and everything it has to offer. Contact us today to learn more or to book a rafting trip or scenic float tour.

Jackson Hole Scenic Float: What to Expect

scenic float grand tetons

If you’ve never been on a scenic float trip before, you’re probably wondering what to expect. Or, maybe you have been on a float trip before, but this is your first Jackson Hole scenic float trip. At Barker Ewing, we’ve been taking folks down the Snake River on scenic float tours since 1963, so we know the perfect stretch of the river for the best views and our guides are full of fun facts and knowledge about the area. Here’s what to expect on your trip.

Expect Teton Views

There are many reasons why our Jackson Hole scenic float trips are well-loved and highly-rated on TripAdvisor, but the views are certainly at the top of the list. If you want the best views of the Tetons, you can’t beat our Teton Views Scenic Floats. 

 

We begin floating just outside the southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park, at the historic Snake River Ranch. No other scenic float trip has access to the river via the Snake River Ranch, so you’re getting an exclusive experience you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll float on the river and enjoy panoramic views of the Teton Range, Snake River Range, and Gros Ventre Range. Bring your binoculars or camera and watch for birds and wildlife. It’s an unforgettable experience that your whole family will enjoy.

Expect to Relax

Jackson Hole scenic float trips are not the same as whitewater rafting—you don’t need to paddle or do anything other than sit back, relax, and take in the scenery. If you’ve got an active vacation planned in Jackson Hole, a scenic float trip is a great way to get a little down time and give your feet a rest for a few hours. You’ll even get a gourmet picnic lunch on your trip, so you won’t have to worry about planning that either!

Expect to Learn

Our guides are the best in the business—they’re passionate about wildlife, nature, history, geology, local lore, and more, so you’ll come away from your Jackson Hole scenic float trip knowing a lot more about the area. Kids especially have fun asking our guides about the different animals that make the Tetons their home. 

Expect Weather Changes

Even at the height of summer, mornings can be chilly in Jackson Hole, especially on the river. Bring an extra layer of clothes if you’re booked for a float trip in the morning or for lunch. Even on days that are overcast, you’ll want to slather on the sunscreen before you go out on the water and wear a hat and sunglasses for your protection. We don’t want sunburn to ruin the rest of your vacation!

 

Oh, and one more thing—don’t expect to get wet unless it rains. Unlike whitewater rafting, scenic float trips are on calm waters, so there’s no bumps or splashing. 

Book a Jackson Hole Scenic Float Trip

Contact us today at 307-733-1000 to learn more about our Snake River scenic float trips or book online now. We look forward to seeing you in beautiful Jackson Hole!

 

Whitewater Rafting: What to Expect

Whether you’re the outdoorsy type with a great deal of hiking and camping experience, or your idea of roughing it is a hotel room rather than a suite, whitewater rafting has broad appeal. Who doesn’t want to challenge themselves in an exhilarating encounter with Mother Nature? Whitewater rafting is an excellent choice because there are rapids and guided trips for every skill level and level of interest.

At Barker-Ewing, we pride ourselves on conducting whitewater rafting trips on the Snake River that are perfect for families. If you’re thinking about giving it a try, here’s what to expect.

Rating the Rapids

The rapids we run are considered Class III. To understand what that means, though, you’ll need to know a little bit about how rapids are rated. There are six levels based on difficulty.

Class I and II rapids are the easiest, and they are considered “novice” level.

Class I: Class I really aren’t rapids at all. The water is basically flat and gently moving, with few if any waves or obstructions, and little steering is required.

Class II: Class II rapids are just a little more challenging. Medium-sized waves and a few rocks to maneuver around are the hallmarks of Class II.

Class III and IV rapids are considered intermediate level. However, Class III rapids generally pose little threat to confident first-timers on a guided trip.

Class III: Class III rapids have a combination of moderate but irregular waves and large but easy to navigate waves. There are fast currents and narrow passages, providing a thrill, but they lack the high technicality of Class IV and above. Our section of the Snake River consists of a series of Class III rapids separated by flat, calm areas where you can catch your breath and even take a quick swim.

Class IV: Class IV rapids are highly technical, and they are not recommended for beginners. They include fast moving, turbulent water, cross-currents, and many large waves.

Classes V and VI are only appropriate for experts seeking a highly intense technical challenge.

Class V: Class V rapids are considered extremely challenging. These rapids have major obstructions, high turbulence, powerful cross-currents, large drops, and unseen holes.

Class VI: To be categorized as Class VI, the rapids must be virtually impossible to navigate.

Your Rafting Experience

Whitewater rafting guides are often referred to as “river rats.” This fun nickname doesn’t encompass the high level of professionalism that these experienced guides possess. Wilderness experts with a great deal of safety training including first aid and CPR, whitewater guides are responsible for keeping you safe while giving you the adventure of a lifetime.

Your guide will meet with you on dry land and give you a safety talk. You will also receive a Coast Guard-approved life vest, which you must wear throughout the trip. You will sign a release form and board the raft.

Once your group is afloat, you will learn basic paddling techniques. No one expects you to be a master, but you will need to pay attention and catch onto the basics unless you are on a classic raft and chose to sit in the middle. The more you know, the more fully you will be able to participate in your own experience.

The entire trip will take about 3 to 4 hours or so round trip from Jackson. You can also combine a whitewater rafting adventure with lunch and a scenic river float for a full day of fun.

Ready for an Adventure?

If you’re ready for the Jackson Hole rafting adventure of a lifetime, contact Barker-Ewing today at (800) 448-4202 to book your spot.

Yellowstone in Winter

If you’ve seen Yellowstone National Park, you realize why it’s special: gurgling mud pots, erupting geysers and wildlife you might only see there in the wild.

You also likely know that visiting Yellowstone in the summer means navigating hoards of visitors jostling for space on boardwalks, RVs, motorcycles and cars choking the roads and bison and bear jams so long you can’t actually see the animal, but instead are forced to sit in traffic as though in rush hour in a big city.

Winter in Yellowstone is a totally different experience. If you’ve planned your Jackson Hole vacation for winter, you should include a stop in Yellowstone National Park.

The park is accessible only by snowmobile, snowcoach, or on foot or skis in the winter.

Yellowstone in Winter

Photo courtesy NPS

Snowmobiles and snowcoach tours can take you to some of the park’s most famous spots like Old Faithful, where you’ll admire the wonders of Yellowstone with only a handful of other intrepid visitors.

Winter transforms the landscape. Ice hugs the edges of thermal features and waterfalls. Snow-covered bison crunch through the snow. Boiling pools steam in the cold air. Yellowstone morphs into an almost brand new park and experience.

While most facilities in the park don’t open until mid-December, trips fill fast and you’ll want to book in advance, especially if you want to stay inside the park at one of the winter lodging options like the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

You can drive yourself to a gateway community like West Yellowstone, Montana, or book a Jackson Hole wildlife tour, which can make arrangements to get you to the park, as well as show you the winter wonderland.

 

Be sure to bring your cross-country skis or snowshoes when you visit the park in winter. If you are staying inside Yellowstone, you’ll want to further explore on foot to immerse yourself in this quiet landscape. You can also start a winter outing on foot or ski from the park’s gateway communities and venture in as far as you feel able. Just don’t forget to dress in layers and appropriate clothing and carry gear like water, snacks, a headlamp and other emergency supplies. The weather can change quickly and Yellowstone in the winter isn’t a place you want to find yourself unexpectedly stranded.

Watch bighorn sheep fight in Dubois

You can’t visit Jackson Hole and not see wildlife. Likely you saw a moose, or a few pronghorn on your way to town from the airport.

But just over Togwotee Pass, something extraordinary happens the end of November through mid-December, making a trip to Dubois, Wyoming, a worthwhile part of your Jackson Hole vacation during this time of year.

The bighorn sheep of Whiskey Basin near Dubois enter the rut. That means you can witness those moments you might have see on tv and in documentaries, where the animals collide and horns crash with a sound heard across the landscape. Give yourself about an hour and a half driving time, especially in the winter, to navigate the almost 60 miles to Dubois.

dubois big horn sheep

You’ll want to visit the National Bighorn Sheep Center once you arrive in town. The center also offers wildlife tours where an experienced guide will drive you up across the steep terrain (an adventure in itself) and take you to spots where you are most likely to find the sheep. They also offer information for self-guided tours for those wanting to explore on their own.

Bighorn sheep are elusive, making their home high in the mountains where they are safe from predators and hard to find. In the winter the animals descend to areas where they can forage and also mate. The Dubois region is home to the largest wintering herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the world. The wind exposes food and there’s plenty of room for the sheep to roam.

Dubois big horn sheep

A visit to the area offers a rare chance to see not just one or two, but dozens of bighorn sheep. It also offers your best chance to watch two males fight in a display of dominance. The animals can reach up to 20 mph before their horns, which can weight up to 30 pounds, collide.

The rut usually last from the end of November to mid-December. Dress similarly for the weather in Jackson Hole. Think layers and warmth- especially for hands and feet.

October Transforms Jackson Hole

October transforms Jackson Hole

Gone are the crowds and delays around the Town Square. Most of the people you’ll sit next to at restaurants are locals. And wildlife are most often spotted this time of year as they prepare for winter.  The shoulder-, or off-season, seems to grow shorter each year in Jackson as more festivals and events draw people to town year round.

October is one of those rare quiet months left before the snow starts to fly and powder hounds descend on the valley, but temperatures have cooled enough that vacationers know this is no longer the time to go for a summer vacation. Town is quieter, but for those seeking an authentic glimpse of Jackson Hole, this is the perfect time to go. Take a wildlife tour and listen to elk bugle. Cast a line on the Snake River and enjoy the solitude. Hike low-elevation trails shrouded with gold and orange leaves.

October shot of the Tetons
For many people who live in the area, this is their favorite time to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. Services are limited, but so are the crowds.  But be beware. The weather in Jackson Hole is often unpredictable, especially this time of year. Roads, in particular in Yellowstone National Park, might close due to snow. Carry extra layers and be prepared for snow if you hike.

This is the best time of year to take Jackson Hole wildlife tours. Experienced guides will take you out looking for moose, elk and bears.
The elk mating season, known as “the rut,” runs through October. In the quiet you can hear the shrill bugle the animals make to attract mates.

Snake River Cutthroat
Bears are active this time of year, scouring for extra calories to pack on the pounds before heading to hibernate.
For those looking to more than watch Wyoming’s iconic wildlife, several hunting seasons begin in the fall, attracting sportsmen and women to the area searching for game. Check with Wyoming Game and Fish for season and license information. No matter your activity choice, if you seek quiet and solitude, October is the best time to find it in Jackson Hole.

Teton Pass