Are you looking for a more exciting way to take in gorgeous scenery? Do you yearn for a little adventure in your life? Whitewater rafting may be precisely what the doctor ordered.
Whitewater rafting can seem rather intimidating to those who’ve never tried it—all that churning, angry looking water. But there’s a reason people go on rafting trips again and again —it’s great fun! And the best part is, there are rivers in the U.S. that suit rafters of every skill level ranging from fresh, shaking newbies to flinty, seasoned pros.
To make matters easier for rafters, there is a whitewater rapid classification system. Rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI with I being the least challenging and VI being the most. Generally speaking, Class I, II, and III are good
choices for beginners, Class IV suits intermediates, and Class V and VI are only appropriate for expert rafters with strong technical rafting knowledge. The classes are rather subjective however, and most rivers are comprised of a combination of rapid types. Therefore, you should consult with your rafting guide to find a trip that will suit your ability and confidence level.
- South Fork of the American River
The South Fork stretches a full 21 miles and is an excellent choice for those who are new to the rafting scene. South Fork is nestled in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountain range just an hour outside of Sacramento, California. It has both Class II and III whitewater rapids. But don’t worry, everyone in the raft is guaranteed to get wet and have a fully enjoyable whitewater rafting experience on South Fork. And don’t let ominous rapid names like “Satan’s Cesspool” give you pause; your guide will help you negotiate the waves with ease.
- Kings River
Approximately two hours east of Fresno, California is the beautiful and pristine Kings River. The river originates near Sequoia National Park and flows all the way south to Fresno where it eventually is diverted and used to nurture local agriculture. Kings is similar in difficulty to South Fork which means beginners are welcome, and the Class III rapids are suitable for all skill levels.
- Middle Fork of the American River
The Middle Fork is around 18 miles long and is ideal for people who have some previous experience with whitewater rafting, and are thirsty for a slightly more challenging course or for first-timers in good physical health with an adventurous streak. Middle Fork provides an exciting experience for you and your family, friends, colleagues, etc. This course is a Class IV so there is some turbulent water requiring careful maneuvering. You can reach Middle Fork by driving just an hour north of Sacramento, California.
- North Fork of the American River
If you’re looking for a challenging but scenic Class IV and V experience, North Fork is for you. This section of the American River boasts some of the very best technical whitewater rafting in the country. Towering rock walls, plummeting waterfalls, gorgeous whitewater, and breathtaking northern California scenery are what await rafters on the North Fork.
- Kern River
Although Kern River technically has a number of tamer rapids that are Class II or III, it is perhaps best known for its thrilling Class V runs. Kern River is situated in the southern section of the Sierra mountain range and is a few hours outside of bustling Los Angeles, California. It is one of only a few whitewater rafting experiences in the southern half of the state. The Kern River drains from Lake Isabella which means its water level and temperature remain fairly constant throughout the rafting season.
You may have noticed that these rivers are all located in the great state of California. That’s because California has some of the most popular, scenic, and adaptable American river rafting experiences. Alaska, West Virginia, Oregon, and Idaho also boast many miles of beautiful and exciting river rafting, but most rafters agree that California is king when it comes to offering exhilarating rafting experiences for all skill levels.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/CB101062/rafting-over-small-rapids?popup=1
Written by Michelle Powell.Michelle loves to whitewater raft on her spare time.