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.