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Best Whitewater rafting in the US

Find the Best Whitewater Rafting in the US

If you were to ask a whitewater guide what their favorite whitewater rafting river is, you will get a variety of similar answers. The majority of the answers will include just a few locations since they are so well loved.  There just isn’t anything like the thrill of a rafting experience.  Whether you are in a team building group, a complete beginner, or a seasoned veteran, there is truly a river for you.  Let’s take a look at where to find the best whitewater rafting in the US.


Group of girls rafting on the Ocoee River. where is the ocoee river


1. The Ocoee River in Ocoee, Tennessee

The Ocoee River in Tennessee is often considered one of the best places for whitewater rafting in the U.S. due to several compelling reasons. Known for its exciting Class III and IV rapids, the river offers continuous action and a variety of challenges, making it an exhilarating adventure for rafters. Flowing through the stunning Cherokee National Forest, the Ocoee River provides beautiful scenery with lush forests, rugged landscapes, and pristine water, enhancing the overall experience. Its accessibility from major cities like Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Knoxville makes it a convenient destination for many. The river’s Olympic history, having hosted the whitewater events during the 1996 Summer Olympics, adds to its reputation and attracts enthusiasts interested in experiencing an Olympic-level course.

The area around the Ocoee River boasts a well-developed infrastructure for rafting, including professional outfitters, safety measures, and well-maintained facilities, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all skill levels. Additionally, the river has a reliable flow schedule, particularly during the summer months, providing consistent conditions for rafting. The Ocoee River is divided into different sections—Upper, Middle, and Lower—each offering unique challenges and experiences, allowing rafters to choose the section that best matches their skill level and desired intensity. These factors collectively make the Ocoee River a top destination for whitewater rafting in the United States.  Raft the Ocoee with Quest!


2. The Arkansas River Canon City, Colorado

People love the Arkansas River for whitewater rafting because of its diverse range of rapids, catering to all skill levels from beginners to experts. The river’s stunning scenery, flowing through the Rocky Mountains and Browns Canyon National Monument, provides breathtaking views. Its accessibility from major cities like Denver and Colorado Springs makes it a convenient destination. Well-developed infrastructure, including numerous professional outfitters, ensures safety and provides equipment for rafters. The consistent water flow, especially during spring and summer, guarantees reliable rafting conditions. Additionally, the strong rafting culture and history of the Arkansas River add to its appeal as a top whitewater rafting destination.  River Runners Rafting


3. Clear Creek in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Clear Creek river rafting in Idaho Springs, Colorado, offers an exciting and diverse range of whitewater rafting experiences. Located just 30 minutes from Denver, Clear Creek provides easy access to some of Colorado’s most thrilling rapids and beautiful mountain scenery.  Rafting on Clear Creek offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, historic mining towns, and lush forests. The creek winds through narrow canyons and past old gold mines, adding a historical element to the adventure.


4.  Colorado River in Arizona

Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River is renowned for its exhilarating rapids, stunning scenery, and unique adventures through some of the most iconic landscapes in the American Southwest. The Colorado River offers a variety of rafting experiences suitable for all skill levels, from calm float trips to challenging whitewater rapids.

The best time for rafting on the Colorado River depends on the section and the type of experience you seek:

  • Spring (April to June): Higher water levels and more intense rapids due to snowmelt.
  • Summer (July to August): Warmer weather, stable water levels, and more family-friendly conditions.
  • Fall (September to October): Cooler temperatures, lower water levels, and fewer crowds.


5. Rio Grande in Pilar, New Mexico

Rafting on the Rio Grande near Pilar offers spectacular views of the Rio Grande Gorge, dramatic cliffs, and rugged landscapes. The area is rich in natural beauty, with opportunities to see diverse flora and fauna, including eagles, herons, bighorn sheep, and deer.  The Rio Grande Gorge is home to various wildlife species. Rafters might spot bald eagles, ospreys, river otters, and beavers, making the rafting experience even more memorable.


6. American River Coloma, California

Whitewater rafting on the American River near Coloma, California, is one of the premier rafting destinations in the United States. Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the American River offers a range of rafting experiences, from gentle floats to thrilling rapids, set against a backdrop of scenic landscapes and rich Gold Rush history.

  • South Fork
    • Experience: The most popular and accessible section, ideal for all skill levels.
    • Rapids: Features Class II-III rapids, such as Meatgrinder, Triple Threat, and Trouble Maker.
    • Scenery: Lush forests, rolling hills, and historic sites from the Gold Rush era.
    • Trips: Half-day, full-day, and multi-day trips are available, making it suitable for families and groups.
  • Middle Fork
    • Experience: Known for its wilderness scenery and more challenging rapids.
    • Rapids: Includes Class III-IV rapids, with highlights like Tunnel Chute, a unique rapid that flows through a man-made tunnel.
    • Scenery: Remote canyons, dramatic cliffs, and pristine wilderness areas.
    • Trips: Typically full-day or multi-day trips, ideal for those seeking a more intense adventure.
  • North Fork
    • Experience: Offers the most challenging rapids, perfect for experienced rafters.
    • Rapids: Class IV-V rapids, including Chamberlain Falls and Bogus Thunder.
    • Scenery: Steep, rugged canyons and untouched natural beauty.
    • Trips: Primarily spring trips when water levels are high, usually full-day excursions.

Check out American Whitewater Expeditions.



7. Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park Pennsylvania

Whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania offers a thrilling adventure in the heart of the scenic Laurel Highlands. The Youghiogheny, often called the “Yough,” provides a range of rafting experiences suitable for beginners, families, and experienced rafters. The river is divided into three main sections, each offering unique challenges and beautiful scenery.


8. Snake River in Jackson, Wyoming

Whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Jackson, Wyoming, offers an exhilarating adventure amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Teton Range. This section of the river is renowned for its Class II-III rapids, making it accessible for families, beginners, and experienced rafters alike. Highlights include rapids like Lunch Counter and Big Kahuna, which provide thrilling waves and splashes. Rafters can enjoy stunning views of rugged mountains, lush forests, and diverse wildlife, including eagles, otters, and deer. Guided trips ensure safety and enhance the experience with local insights and expert navigation. The rafting season runs from May to September, with warmer weather and optimal water levels during summer months.


9. Rogue River in Merlin, Oregon

Whitewater rafting on the Rogue River in Merlin, Oregon, offers an unforgettable experience filled with both excitement and natural beauty. Known for its diverse range of Class II-IV rapids, the Rogue River caters to rafters of all skill levels. Iconic rapids like Rainie Falls, Mule Creek Canyon, and Blossom Bar provide thrilling challenges set against the stunning backdrop of the Siskiyou Mountains and lush forests. The river’s scenery includes steep canyon walls, dense woodlands, and abundant wildlife, such as black bears, ospreys, and river otters. Multi-day trips are popular, featuring riverside camping and opportunities for hiking and fishing. The rafting season extends from May to October, with summer offering the best conditions for enjoying the Rogue River’s exhilarating rapids and serene stretches.


10. Nenana River in Alaska

Whitewater rafting on the Nenana River in Alaska offers an adventurous and scenic experience near Denali National Park. The river flows through the dramatic landscapes of the Alaska Range, providing stunning views and diverse rafting opportunities.


River Rafting in the US

11. Menominee River in Athelstane, Wisconsin

Whitewater rafting on the Menominee River in Athelstane, Wisconsin, offers an exciting and scenic adventure in the heart of the Midwest. The river features impressive rapids, dramatic gorges, and beautiful natural surroundings, making it a popular destination for both novice and experienced rafters.

Whitewater rafting on the Menominee River in Athelstane, Wisconsin, provides an unforgettable adventure, combining the thrill of rapids with the beauty of the Midwest’s natural landscapes. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rafter, the Menominee River offers a perfect rafting experience for everyone.

12. The Forks in Maine

Whitewater rafting in The Forks, Maine, is renowned for its thrilling rapids, stunning wilderness scenery, and the convergence of two major rivers, the Kennebec and Dead Rivers. This area is a premier destination for both adrenaline seekers and nature lovers, offering a variety of rafting experiences suitable for all skill levels.


Best Whitewhite Rafting

Whitewater rafting is extremely popular in the United States.  Each and any of these locations and or rivers provide an excellent, fun, and exciting trip to create memories with your friends, family, and co-workers.  However, nothing beats the Ocoee River in Tennessee but a lot are close.