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White Water Rafting In The USA | 6 Of The Best Spots in America

A guide to white water rafting in Colorado, California, New York, Wyoming and the USA

As with many sports – from hiking to mountain bikingWhite water rafting in the USA, just seems to be bigger and better than anywhere else. Maybe it’s the sheer variety and size of rivers, the crazy range of scenery or the nation’s historical ties to rafting which means that white water rafting in the USA will always have a place on any rafter’s bucket list.

White water rafting in the USA Photo: iStockphoto.com

With such a wide range of choices on offer white water rafting in the USA literally offers something for all levels – from beginner white water rafters to experts. You can find stunning scenic routes, blistering rapids or even playful beginner river to introduce you to rafting. Whatever rafting experience you’re looking for you can be sure that you’ll find it when you go white water rafting in the USA.

White Water Rafting On The Snake River, Wyoming

Snake River, Wyoming – Photo: Tomkelly – flickr.com

White water rafting in the USA has come along way since its birth back in the 1800s. 1811 saw the world’s first recorded attempt at a white water rafting trip take place at Snake River in Wyoming. With no specialist equipment or training an intrepid group of explorer tied, and failed, to navigate the river which earned the snake it’s nickname, ‘Mad River’.

Today with modern boats and equipment Snake river is a much easier challenge, only rating at a class 2 or 3 (out of 6) on the International Scale Of River Difficulty. This is a great river for beginners and families featuring enough white water to give you a thrill without too much in the way of challenge or danger. On top of conquering a river that has gone down in the history of white water rafting in the USA, and in fact the whole world, riding the Snake River will also give you a chance to bask in the epic beauty of the Grand Tetons National Park surrounded by pine covered slopes and limestone cliffs with the sun setting behind the peaks of the Teton mountain range, towering over the horizon.

Snake River, Wyoming – Photo@ Kristin – wikimedia.org

Tour Operator: Snakeriverwhitewater.com 

White Water Rafting In The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Colorado River – Photo: pixabay.com

The Grand Canyon is one of he USA’s most iconic landmarks. At over a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide this is one of the biggest canyons in the world and was formed by erosion from the Colorado river that races through the bottom of the canyon.

A white water rafting holiday through the Grand Canyon can from a few hours to a couple of weeks, depending on how far down the 277 mile long water way you want to explore. Travelling through the canyon lets you see years of archaeological history revealed in the rock walls, spot local wildlife and even pass by Native American settlements as you cruise down the river.

Whitewater Rafting Grand Canyon, Colorado River – Photo: Mark Lellouch – Flickr.com

There is a large variety of water here from relatively flat sections to full on grade 5 rapids. Unlike almost every other river in the world the Grand Canyon has it’s own grading system running from 1-10 with a Grand Canyon grade 10 being equivalent to an International grade 5. The sheer variety means that a knowledgeable guide is essential, but this is not a trip to be missed for anyone planning to go white water rafting in the USA.

Tour Operator: Grandcanyonwhitewater.com 

White Water Rafting In California

California is one of the top places for adventure sports so it’s no surprise that a trip to go white water rafting in the USA is likely to lead you to the sunshine state. While you’re not going to find any white water rafting in Los Angeles or many of California’s bigger cities, a couple of hours drive to the centre of the state will bring you to the Kaweah River.

Kaweah River, California – Photo: whitewatertours.com

The Kaweah is not a river for the faint hearted. Fed by water from melting snow in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Kaweah reaches an average peak of 48 m³/s, almost 3 times that of an Olympic level white water venue like Lee Valley in the UK. These are grade 4+ rapids, racing down one of the USA’s steepest rivers, and are not for the feint hearted or inexperienced.

Because of its reliance on melt water, the Kaweah rafting season varies depending on the size of the previous winter’s snowpack, but when the river is in full flow it has plenty of exciting features including the ‘Slickies’, polished granite slaloms that zigzag you down the river while spinning you around and taking you over two sizeable drops. Along with tricky access rights in some areas this is another river that requires a very experienced tour guide and preferably an experienced crew, but if you’re up to the challenge it will be one that you’ll remember for a long time to come.

The American River, California – Photo: Youtube.com

If you’re looking for more relaxed white water rafting in California, you can head to the north east of the state and check out the incredibly patriotic, American River. With stretches fed by dam release, this river has one of the most reliable water flows in California with guaranteed flows from April through to September. Split into three different forks the American offers super friendly family trips in the lower area of each fork with grade 1-2 rapids but also caters to the more adventurous with grade 2-3 water in the South Fork and up to grade 4 and 4+ in the Middle and Northern Forks. With such great variety on offer this is the perfect spot for any mixed ability group aiming to go white water rafting in the USA.

Tour Operator: whitewatertours.com

White Water Rafting In New York

Hudson River, New York – Photo: Flickr.com

When most people think of New York they go straight to visions of skyscrapers and the Big Apple, but New York State is also full of beautiful countryside and some cracking rivers.

If you know your NYC geography you’ll know that it sits on the bank of the Hudson river, what you might not know is that this river starts all the way up in Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains. Working its way down through the unspoiled Adirondack scenery and the Hudson River Gorge you’re guaranteed some breathtaking views on a Hudson river white water rafting trip. The beginning of the season in spring sees the biggest water on the Hudson, followed by cruisey summer trips full of warmer water and dependable dam fed water flow and then beautiful autumn displays as the leaves turn fiery red and yellow.

Moose River, New York – Photo: northcreekrafting.com

The Hudson is the perfect spot for a mellow, fun trip down the river, but it does have some sections of grade 3 and 4 rapids too to get your heart pumping. But if you’re looking for some really exciting white water rafting in New York then maybe the Moose River is for you. With a super short season, just for the month of April, the Moose throws you through punishing grade 4-5 rapids, towering waves and steep drops. You need to be both fit and experienced to ride the Moose, with at least some grade 3 rapids already under your belt, but if you’re ready for it the Moose will be one of the biggest rushes you’ll get white water rafting in the USA.

Tour Operator: northcreekrafting.com

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