50 Best Whitewater Rafting Adventures in the USA

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the 50 best whitewater rafting destinations in the United States! From the rugged canyons of the West to the lush forests of the East, the U.S. boasts an abundance of rivers offering exhilarating whitewater experiences for rafters of all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro seeking the ultimate challenge or a novice looking for a thrilling introduction to the sport, this robust list has something for everyone. 

Top 50 List

Here are our picks for the 50 best whitewater rafting adventures in the country (in no particular order). 

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Colorado River offers an electrifying multi-day rafting trip through one of the world’s most iconic landscapes.

50 Best Whitewater Rafting Adventures in the USA
Our list kicks off with one of the best rafting rides in the United States: Arizona’s iconic Grand Canyon.

2. Gauley River, West Virginia

Known for its challenging rapids, the Gauley River offers adrenaline-pumping experiences, especially during the fall Gauley Season.

3. Chattooga River, South Carolina/Georgia

Designated as a Wild and Scenic River, the Chattooga offers a mix of rapids ranging from Class II to Class V.

4. Trinity River, California

This river offers a magnificent mix of Class III and IV rapids, making it an ideal destination for adventure seekers in the heart of the Golden State.

5. Arkansas River, Colorado

With various sections offering everything from family-friendly floats to intense Class IV rapids, the Arkansas River is a popular destination for rafters of all skill levels.

6. Tuolumne River, California

Cutting through the rugged Sierra Nevada, the Tuolumne River offers challenging rapids in a breathtaking badland setting.

7. Ocoee River, Tennessee

Host of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events, the Ocoee River provides exciting rapids and an amazing vibe.

8. Salmon River, Idaho

The River of No Return offers multi-day rafting trips through deep canyons and titillating whitewater.

9. New River, West Virginia

Offering a variety of rapids, the New River provides unending beauty and mind-blowing whitewater adventures.

10. Green River, Utah

Carving through Utah’s stunning canyons, the Green River offers multi-day rafting trips with Class II to Class IV rapids.

11. Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania/Maryland

Known as the “Yough,” this river offers challenging rapids and beautiful landscapes, with options for both beginners and experienced rafters.

12. Kern River, California

Located in the southern Sierra Nevada, the Kern River offers astonishing whitewater rafting opportunities, especially during the spring snowmelt.

13. Deschutes River, Oregon

Offering a mix of rapids and majestic beauty, the Deschutes River is a popular rafting destination in the Pacific Northwest.

14. Nenana River, Alaska

Experience enchanting whitewater rafting amidst Alaska’s impressive no-man’s land, with options for both half-day and full-day trips.

15. Poudre River, Colorado

The Poudre River near Fort Collins offers a variety of rapids and striking landscapes, making it a popular choice for rafting enthusiasts.

50 Best Whitewater Rafting Adventures in the USA
The Poudre River near Fort Collins is just one of many rivers you can raft in Colorado.

16. Rio Grande, Texas

Experience the beauty of Big Bend National Park while navigating the rapids of the Rio Grande, which offers both easy floats and rip-roaring whitewater sections.

17. American River, California

Divided into three forks, the American River provides rafting experiences for beginners and experts, with beautiful views along the way.

18. White Salmon River, Washington

Enjoy gripping rapids and surrounding beauty as you raft through the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.

19. Gunnison River, Colorado

Explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison by raft, with dazzling nature views and challenging rapids awaiting.

20. Upper and Lower Klamath River, California/Oregon

Raft through scenic wilderness areas and showy rapids on the Klamath River, with options for both half-day and multi-day trips.

21. Merced River, California

Flowing through Yosemite National Park, the Merced River offers a mix of calm floats and exhilarating rapids against the backdrop of iconic granite cliffs.

22. Cheat River, West Virginia

Known for its remote beauty and challenging rapids, the Cheat River provides an unforgettable whitewater rafting experience.

23. North Fork of the American River, California

Offering advanced Class IV and V rapids, the North Fork provides a thrilling challenge for experienced rafters.

24. Animas River, Colorado

Enjoy rafting through the scenic canyons of southwest Colorado. The Animas River offers half-day and full-day trips.

25. Clear Creek, Colorado

Close to Denver, Clear Creek offers rousing rapids and beautiful scenery, making it a popular choice for day trips.

50 Best Whitewater Rafting Adventures in the USA
Whitewater rafting is fun for the whole family!

26. Pigeon River, Tennessee/North Carolina

Raft through the scenic Great Smoky Mountains on the Pigeon River, which offers both family-friendly floats and dramatic rapids.

27. Clark Fork River, Montana

Experience the beauty of western Montana while rafting through the picture-perfect canyons and provocative rapids of the Clark Fork River.

28. Pine Creek, Pennsylvania

Known for its challenging rapids, Pine Creek offers adrenaline-pumping whitewater adventures in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon.

29. Black River, New York

Navigate through deep gorges and stimulating rapids on the Black River in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York.

30. Nantahala River, North Carolina

Enjoy a fulfilling rafting trip on the Nantahala River, which features calm stretches and lively Class II and III rapids.

31. Dead River, Maine

Experience the thrill of continuous whitewater on the Dead River, which offers some of the most challenging rapids in the Northeast.

32. Salmon River, Oregon

Raft through the scenic wilds of western Oregon on the Salmon River, which features exciting rapids and lush forests.

50 Best Whitewater Rafting Adventures in the USA
Whitewater rafting in the United States offers both easy rafting trips and more challenging rapids. Take your pick!

33. Payette River, Idaho

The Payette River offers a variety of sections with different difficulty levels, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced rafters.

34. Chatanika River, Alaska

Venture into Alaska’s interior for a rafting trip on the Chatanika River, which offers scenic floats and zestful whitewater sections.

35. Cumberland River, Kentucky/Tennessee

Raft through the scenic Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the Cumberland River, which features Class II and III rapids.

36. Weber River, Utah

Close to Salt Lake City, the Weber River offers a mix of rapids and gorgeous mountain terrain, making it a popular choice for day trips.

37. Rogue River, Oregon

Experience the beauty of southern Oregon while rafting through the picturesque Rogue River canyon, which features calm stretches and wild rapids.

38. Big Thompson River, Colorado

Flowing through the Rocky Mountains, the Big Thompson River offers a variety of rapids and beautiful canyon views.

39. Middle Fork of the Flathead River, Montana

Raft through Glacier National Park’s pristine backcountry on the Flathead River’s Middle Fork, which offers sensational scenery and exhilarant rapids.

40. Salt River, Arizona

Explore the rugged landscapes of central Arizona while rafting on the Salt River, which features challenging rapids and desert setting.

41. Owyhee River, Oregon

Experience the remote wilds and eye-popping rapids on the Owyhee River, which flows through the high desert of southeastern Oregon.

50 Best Whitewater Rafting Adventures in the USA
Our list includes rafting adventures for the perfect day trip as well as more involved multi-day excursions into the wilderness.

42. Roaring Fork River, Colorado

Close to Aspen, the Roaring Fork River offers exciting rafting opportunities with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

43. Cossatot River, Arkansas

Known as the Cossatot National Wild and Scenic River, this waterway offers challenging Class III to Class V rapids amid the beauty of southwest Arkansas.

44. Deadwood River, Idaho

Flowing through the rugged landscapes of central Idaho, the Deadwood River provides riveting whitewater rafting adventures for experienced paddlers.

45. Desolation Canyon, Utah

Embark on a multi-day rafting adventure through the remote and impressive Desolation Canyon on the Green River, experiencing hair-raising rapids and untouched backcountry.

46. Blackfoot River, Montana

Follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark as you raft through the scenic parts of the Blackfoot River, renowned for its crystal-clear waters and heady rapids.

47. Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

Navigate through the heart of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, experiencing challenging rapids and pristine outback.

48. Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Discover the wild beauty of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest on a rafting trip down one of its many rivers. You’ll be surrounded by towering forests, rugged mountains, and abundant wildlife.

49. Piney River, Colorado

Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains on a rafting excursion down the Piney River, which offers mind-bending rapids and breathtaking alpine views.

50. Rio Chama, New Mexico

This river offers a mix of tranquil stretches and frantic rapids, surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs, pine-covered hillsides, and ancient ruins.

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