White water rafting is the perfect activity if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. The United States is home to many great places for rafting, so you’ll find the perfect spot. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rafter, there’s a river waiting for you.
River rafting is unique because you’re engaged in every minute you spend on the water as you have to listen to your guide for the next set of instructions. The intensity of rapids also makes it easy to scale, so everyone in your group is comfortable and has a good time.
Whether you have no experience on the river or are a seasoned river rat looking for your next rafting excursion, check out our list of 17 great places to go white water rafting in the USA.
If you’re looking for an exciting whitewater rafting trip, look no further than Alaska. With millions of acres worth of wilderness, Alaska harbors some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Chugach Outdoor Center is a great outfitter to book your white water raft trip in Hope. They provide several levels of trips, from the adventurous class IV and V rapids to the mild class II and III rapids on Six Mile Creek.
Bring plenty of warm clothes here, for when you’re on the river and when you get off. Be sure you have a dry bag to keep your extra clothes nice and dry.
If you’re looking for a thrilling whitewater rafting experience, the Deschutes River in Maupin, Oregon, is the place to be.
The Deschutes River is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and scenic countrysides in the United States and is well known for its challenging rapids. It’s the perfect place to enjoy white water rafting, whether you’re an experienced rafter or a beginner.
ROW Adventures offers a variety of tours on the Deschutes River for folks who want to experience white water rafting. No matter your experience level, ROW Adventures can provide you with a tour that will suit your needs.
A list of the best places to white water raft in the USA isn’t complete without mentioning one of the world’s most iconic places to float: the Grand Canyon.
Carved out of millions of years of erosion from the Colorado River, Grand Canyon rafting offers adventurers the opportunity to view the scenic towering cliffs from a perspective that most will never get to see.
You’ll be awestruck by just how massive the canyon is. However, the rapids are incredibly fun, and there are many places to pull off to the side and explore slot canyons and creeks. Wilderness River Adventures is a great company to book your trip through the Grand Canyon.
They offer several float trips, from a full-day rafting trip around Horseshoe Bend to multi-day trips that take you through the heart of the Grand Canyon.
One of the best-kept secrets in Southern California is the accessibility to prime white water rafting. Located just 3 hours outside of Los Angeles is the Kern River.
This playful river is fed by snowmelt from the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and provides some of the most incredible scenery in California. Mountain & River Adventures is an excellent company for rafting on the Kern River.
They offer fantastic trips down the Kern River and have an on-site campground, making it easy to spend a couple of days here to explore the Kern River fully.
The most iconic river in California is the American River. Gold was discovered in the American River in 1848, prompting the 1849 gold rush that attracted people worldwide to emigrate to California.
While you likely won’t find gold on your white water rafting trip, you’ll create golden memories that will last a lifetime.
For a trip on the American River, check out Whitewater Excitement Inc. They offer several excursions, from mild Class I and II rapids for beginners to wild Class IV and V rapids for advanced paddlers.
Buena Vista, CO
Are you looking for your next family adventure? Colorado white water is some of the best in the USA.
One of the best white water rafting spots in Colorado is Buena Vista. You can access the Arkansas River as it flows through Browns Canyon. The river gets nice and rowdy with several Class III and IV rapids, making it a wild ride.
Several companies will take you down the Arkansas River from Buena Vista, but Timberline Tours is the best. Timberline has been in business for over 50 years and has people coming to book river adventures with them year after year.
Canyon City, CO
White water rafting often takes you through canyons since the rivers tend to cut deep into the earth after millions of years of flow. So you’re in for quite the white water adventure when you visit Canyon City, CO.
The town is named for the effects of the river flowing through it. The Arkansas River that began just north of Buena Vista continues through Canyon City and, most notably, the Royal Gorge.
Check out Raft Masters for your trip down the Arkansas River and through the Royal Gorge. Also, watch for bighorn sheep and the train that snakes through the Gorge.
Colorado is a popular whitewater rafting spot. Eagle is a special place because you have the option of rafting on not one but two different rivers. The Eagle River and the Upper Colorado River are easily accessible from the town of Eagle and offer vastly different experiences.
The Eagle River is full of fun class III rapids to keep your adrenaline high throughout your float. The Upper Colorado River is a more relaxing float with a couple of fun class II and III rapids.
Once again, the best outfitter to book a white water rafting trip from Eagle, CO, is Timberline Tours. Their main boathouse is conveniently located in Eagle, a great place to meet before your trip.
Who’s ready for a family rafting trip?
Idaho is one of the best places to go white water rafting in the USA because the snow from the jagged mountain peaks melts and fills the rivers at the bottom of cavernous canyons, making for unique white water opportunities.
Like Eagle, CO, Riggins offers two great rivers to raft on: the Salmon River, known as “The River of No Return,” and the Snake River. A great company to book your trip with is Mountain River Outfitters. They offer several options for paddling on your choice of rivers, ranging from fun single-day trips to amazing multi-day trips.
The best part is that the rafting guides provide you with all of your meals for the day when you book a full-day or multi-day trip. Be sure you have a waterproof backpack to keep your gear dry!
The Yellowstone River is one of the most iconic rivers in the USA. It served as the primary transportation means for the Lewis and Clark expedition during the early 1800s. It has been a water source and spirituality for the many Native American tribes that call its banks home.
First, book your trip with Montana Whitewater Rafting & Yellowstone Zipline Tours.
Then, get the thrill of taking one of the most important rivers in the USA through one of the country’s oldest and most iconic national parks, Yellowstone National Park. If you need more adventure, book a zip line too!
Northwestern Montana is one of the best places to get some white water rafting action.
When you visit Missoula, you don’t need to walk further than downtown to get to some choice of white water rafting, as the Clark Fork runs right through the heart of town.
A great company to float within Missoula is Zoo Town Surfers. They offer not only guided trips down the Clark Fork but they also rent kayaks and even surfboards. So the sky’s the limit to playing on the Clark Fork in Missoula.
North Carolina is a hidden gem when it comes to white water rafting. Ocoee River rafting offers some of the best white water rafting in the US, and it was the home to the 1996 Olympics for white water events.
The Nantahala River is another great river rafting option for the whole family. Located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this river offers whitewater rapids perfect for beginners and those with little experience.
In addition, the scenery along the river is beautiful, and you may even spot some wildlife along the way. So if you’re looking for a fun and adventurous day trip, consider rafting down the Nantahala River.
If that doesn’t scream amazing white water rafting, I don’t know what does. The best company to go rafting down the Ocoee River is Carolina Outfitters.
They’ll take you down some of the best white water rapids in the state, filling your heart full of adrenaline and your mind full of awe and wonder of the natural beauty that springs up around you as you float. You will find something for every experience level.
White water rafting likely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pennsylvania. When someone says they’re visiting PA, large industrial cities and old colonial history are what folks imagine.
However, most don’t realize that rafting here is fantastic. Jim Thorpe River Adventures does a great job of offering guided trip services and teaching guests how to paddle guide their own boat.
You’ll get the experience of captaining your own raft as the guide offers instructions from a chase kayak as you make your way down the Lehigh River.
A town that is about as western as you can get is Moab. Several Western movies have been filmed in Moab, giving it that iconic old Western vibe. Massive red sandstone cliffs rise from the desert floor as the Colorado River flows through it.
There are several areas to go rafting in Moab, ranging from easy day-long trips to wild multi-day trips.
A great company to go with in Moab is Red River Adventures. With over 20 years in the business, they’ve perfected their trips to allow you to fully experience all that the Colorado River has to offer as it flows to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
In northeastern Utah, you’ll find one of the most exciting rivers in the USA. The Green River takes you through some pretty unique geological locations.
The most astounding part is that you’ll find petroglyphs carved into the side of the rocks along the river from the ancient Fremont people that lived there thousands of years ago. You’ll also travel through the Dinosaur National Monument, home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of dinosaur fossils.
Keep your eyes peeled as you float to see if you can spot more fossils embedded in the canyon walls. A great company to book your trip with is OARS Dinosaur. They offer several levels of trips, from mild to wild and single-day to multi-day, so you’ll get the best trip for you and your group.
If you’re looking for a heart-pumping wild ride of a trip, look no further than Lansing, WV. Lansing is home to several outfitters that take only the bravest paddlers down one of the USA’s most formidable rivers: the Gauley.
With large waves, massive holes, and stomach-turning drops, your adrenaline will be up from stepping into the raft until you get out. New & Gauley River Adventures is a great company to book your tour. They’ve been in the business for over 30 years, which is the experience you want when braving the Gauley River.
Jackson, Wyoming, is one of the most beautiful places in the USA. In addition, Jackson is near two of the best National Parks in the country, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park.
Plus, it’s got access to some excellent white water rafting. Book a trip with Teton Whitewater and explore the Snake River’s exciting class III and IV rapids as it flows past some of the most scenic mountain ranges in the country.
Now that you know where to go, it’s time to plan your river trip. First, make sure to pack the proper clothing for the river. Never wear cotton clothes, as cotton tends to absorb water and keep you cold and wet while on your trip, which can be a minor inconvenience or incredibly dangerous depending on the weather.
If winds pick up and the temperature drops to around 60°F, hypothermia can set in. Stay safe, and pack wool or polyester clothes for your white water adventure.
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Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.