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

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.