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The Gearboat Chronicles

Top White Water Destinations in North America

Looking to get a taste of the wild side here in North America? There’s no better way to experience the wonders of American rivers than with white water rafting. In addition to the thrill of the white water rafting experience, you also get a taste of the natural world in a way you can get anywhere else.

Read about some of our favorite white water rafting rivers in North America!

 

Salmon River

Idaho

Rapid Class: III-IV

A primary tributary of the mighty Columbia River, Idaho’s Salmon River is universally considered one of the best white water rivers in not only North America, but the world.

What makes this river so special? First off, it offers a unique and unforgettable trip through the largest section of roadless wilderness and the longest section of undammed river in the lower 48. The section we raft, a 72-mile section known as “The Canyons,” is endless fun and whitewater for the whole family.

You’ll enjoy alpine forests winding their way to desert stretches, with a high variant of wildlife and flora & fauna throughout. This is truly a magical experience for any lover of white water and wild places.

 

Snake River 

Idaho

Rapid Class: II-IV

The Snake River is also a major tributary of the Columbia River. With its pristine headwaters in Wyoming, this iconic Northwest river winds through a remote section of Idaho. Our most popular trip on the Snake, a 79-mile trip from Hells Canyon Dam to Heller Bar, is a classic white water section. This trip weaves through North America’s deepest river canyon in North America, Hells Canyon.

This river is also loaded with a world class rainbow trout fishery and is loaded with historical sites, providing a rich cultural experience. This is truly the way white water rafting was intended to be enjoyed.

 

Grande Ronde River

Oregon

Rapid Class: II

The final river on the list in the upper Columbia River watershed is the Grande Ronde River. This iconic river is world famous for its summer steelhead run, but is also a wonderful family-friendly class II white water float.

This 3 day float meanders through a roadless wild and scenic section of the “Ronde,” weaving through ponderosa pine forests and a deep basalt river canyon. This mellow float is great for children, but also for enjoying the scenery and experiencing the best Eastern Oregon has to offer.

Our favorite way to experience this trip as fly fisherman is through 5-day guided fly fishing floats. This lets you enjoy just how wild this river is and experience nature on a whole other level. There is truly no better way to get to know a river than to raft and fish it!

 

Chattooga River 

Georgia and South Carolina

Rapid Class: III-V

This premier Southeastern river is one of the longest free-flowing (undammed) rivers in the whole country. While the east coast is not often thought of as a rafting mecca, this river should put that thought to rest. 

The river is known for a stretch that flows from South Carolina into Georgia and offers 26 miles of continuous rapids. While this river offers rapids for all age groups, in the spring some sections boast class V rapids. 

This remote gorge in SEC country is a unique and wonderful experience in a part of the country where wild places are harder to find.

 

Deerfield River

Massachusetts

Rapid Class: II-IV

A unique New England experience, Western Massachusetts’ Deerfield River is a diamond in the puritanical rough. 

This Connecticut River tributary, once a legendary Atlantic Salmon stronghold, provides some of the best white water opportunities in New England. This scenic river winds through New England villages and iconic Berkshire landscapes, with class II-IV whitewater throughout the journey.

While not as remote as some other rivers on this list, the Deerfield river is one of the more unique rivers. Nowhere else will you be able to get a taste of old, quaint, history-filled villages as you charge class IV rapids. 

 

Kennebec River 

Maine

Rapid Class: III-IV

Draining a large part of Maine and residing in the heart of vacationland, The Kennebec River is about as close to a wilderness experience as you can get in the Northeastern United States.

The Kennebec River originates in Moosehead Lake in Northern Maine, and flows through backwoods through pristine wilderness. The river offers large rapids and is known for its 6-8 foot waves, providing an exhilarating ride for those hoping to get wet.

This river is a great summer destination when the weather is warm and the river can be run the entire summer (not possible with all rivers in glacier-less New England). The river is also filled with opportunities for swimming, trout fishing, and waterfall hiking. A true summer paradise. 

 

Arkansas River

Colorado 

Rapid Class: III-IV

Starting in the mountains of Colorado and flowing all the way to the Mississippi River in Arkansas, the Arkansas River is likely Colorado’s most well known white water river. With over 100 miles of incredible rafting opportunities, there’s something for everyone.

The Arkansas actually drops 5,000 feet from its headwaters near the continental divide in its first 125 miles. The river flows through multiple incredible zones, including the scenic Browns Canyon National Monument. 

Whether you’re going through Brown’s Canyon, wide glacial valleys, or the thrilling Royal Gorge area, the Arkansas is a worthwhile white water bucket list destination for any seasoned rafter.

 

Colorado River 

Utah and Arizona 

Rapid Class: II-IV

There may not be a river more ubiquitous with white water rafting than the Colorado River. Beginning in the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the best white water opportunities flow through Utah and Arizona.

The most essential white water trip on the Colorado of course goes through the 226 miles of the Grand Canyon. Trips through this red rocked, desert canyon are the definition of remote and big. Lasting 2 weeks, a float through this section is a true wilderness experience.  

Beyond the canyon, there is still much to be explored on the southeast’s most prominent and powerful river. No matter where you raft, spring offers more thrilling flows, while summer offers gentler, mild flows for more relaxed floats.

 

Experience the best white water rafting in North America with Winding Waters River Expeditions

The upper Columbia River watershed is truly as magical as white water can be. The Grande Ronde, Salmon, and Snake rivers are all unique waterways that provide unforgettable river experiences. 

At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we lead fully supported rafting trips down these beautiful rivers. Not only will you get a true wilderness experience, but our guides provide everything you need and a comfortable experience.

Get in touch to learn more about our white water trips and to book the experience of a lifetime next summer!