Best US rafting: Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers

Nov 21, 2018 BY AWE365 Team

Looking for the best US rafting? Then check out the top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers, as decided by a group of rafting gurus who’ve worked on many rivers stateside.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers

Best US rafting

Whitewater rafting is a thrilling experience and the beauty is you don’t have to be an expert. As adventure activities and outdoor sports have grown in popularity, rafting has become a go to activity all over the world for those looking to get a dose of adrenaline.

Rivers vary greatly in difficulty based on the International Scale of River Difficulty, so can be matched up with the experience of the rafters. And if you have a guide even first timers can raft class 5 rapids. The top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers offer both extreme and relaxing options, making it an accessible sport for all ages.

And white water rafting is a brilliant option for holidays. With many rating outfitters in the US able to organise the entire expedition for you. The best part? It’s not just the whitewater, but also the beauty of the locations. There’s nothing better than floating down a river through stunning wilderness.

Flickr CC image of Salmon River by Northwest Rafting Company

Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers

We wanted to know where to raft in the US. So, we asked a group of rafting guides to put together a list of rivers they consider to be the best US rafting options. Any of the below rivers would be perfect for your next adventure.

Arkansas River, Colorado

Running between the Colorado and Arkansas rivers this is a very popular destination for whitewater rafting. It’s also got one of the best campsites in the country, with a breathtaking view of the white mountains of Colorado.

Most of its rapids are class 3, which means beginners can easily try rafting here. The most well-known rapids are the Zoom Fumes and the Big Drop, which rafters flock here to experience.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Arkansas Colorado River Arizona

For family trips or groups who aren’t expert rafters, this is hands down the best option in Colorado. Many professional companies organize packages and both day trips and week-long  camping expeditions here.

Easily one of the top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers. Check out the Arkansas River rafting trips by Echo Canyon River Expeditions for a top trip.

Middle Fork Salmon River, Idaho

Another gorgeous river that is known not just for some of the best US rafting but also for its view and surrounding landscapes. Salmon River isn’t ideal for beginners, but can work with the right guides.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Salmon River Idaho

A bonus with Salmon River are the many other things that you can explore while you’re there. There is a massive wildlife and forested area said to be filled with wildlife of all kinds. Again there are companies which organise rafting tours and much more.

Looking to camp, explore and also to raft one of the top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers? Then Salmon River in Idaho could be for you. Check out trips run by the Northwest Rafting Company.

Colorado River, Arizona

Flowing through the gorgeous Grand Canyon, the Colorado is internationally known as one of the best US rafting rivers. The magnificent, orange rocks, stunningly deep canyon and feeling or isolation provide an unprecedented experience.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Colorado River Arizona

The river itself is quite calm, but it does experience higher flows every now and then. Ranging from a class 2 to class 3 on a regular day, beginners and will find rafting the Grand Canyon very enjoyable.

For expert rafters, the Colorado River is a hot favorite when in full flow. There are many companies offering packages for rafting including camping that range from a few days to a few weeks.

Rogue River, Oregon

Full of challenging rapids and gushing waterfalls, Rogue River is easily one of the top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers. The rapids are mostly class 5 all year round. So beginners will find it quite challenging here.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Flickr CC image of Rogue River, Oregon by U.S. Department of the Interior

Surrounded by the fantastic green canyons, Rogue River starts in the Cascade Mountains and ends in the Pacific Ocean. The Argo rapids are the least difficult, and a good option for adventurous beginners. The area is also  known for rare bird species and has some interesting forest areas to explore.

Gauley River, West Virginia

One of the best US rafting rivers for the really adventurous. Known to be one of the most challenging rivers, the rapids are class 5 and go higher at certain points.

With over a hundred rapids, Gauley River is surrounded by a gorgeous landscape and an abundance of wildlife. There is wild camping available throughout the park plus designated campgrounds.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Flickr CC image of Gauley River, West Virginia by QuiteLucid

The trip is possible in one or two days if you want to push yourself, but most people take longer. For beginners, the Upper New River is a more suitable spot.

Nenana River, Alaska

There’s no view like the White Mountains of Alaska, and that’s probably why people have been rafting here for years. The river itself is rather challenging, with class 5 and 6 rapids, making it one of the top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers.

Starting from the mainland region in Alaska, this 10-mile long rafting trail ends up at the beautiful Denali National Park. At the park, you can explore the wildlife and even take a guided tour. This is a great destination to have a mini holiday.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Nenana river Alaska

Despite it’s difficulty, Nenana River can be rafted by beginners but only with a guide. The river is situated at Mount McKinley, which is a stunning glacial region so the water is pretty cold.

Kennebec River, Maine

This river is one of the top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers for those who want a challenge, even if they’re not so experienced. Starting from the Harris Station Dam, there are plenty of challenging rapids on this 12-mile long journey.

It’s safest to raft here when the water flow is reduced and the rapids fall to class 3 or 4. The most difficult rapids are The Three Sisters, and there’s also the massive drop called the Magic Falls.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Kennebec River in Maine Flickr CC image by Rick Moffitt

There are plenty of camping options in the area, and the landscape is magnificent. So, whether you decide to just go rafting or to camp out for a few days, Kennebec River is a great option for beginners and experts.

Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania

The Yough River, as it is commonly known, is a hotspot for most rafting lovers because of how accessible it is. Only half an hour drive from Pittsburgh, this river is certified both safe and challenging for rafting throughout the year.

Usually a class 3 or 4, the rapids are rough and tough. Railroad and Double Hydraulics are the most famous, and the adventure level will not disappoint.

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania

Although camping isn’t a big thing here, there are some good spots around the river. For a day trip or multi day adventure with some exciting whitewater, the Yough is one of the best US rafting rivers.

Chattooga River, South Carolina

Clear blue waters and rugged rocks, this is what you can expect to find at Chattooga River. One of the oldest whitewater rafting Rivers in the country the rapids range from class 3 to class 5.

Chattooga is considered one of the safest and most exciting rivers, and it’s great for both beginners and experienced rafters. Most of the surrounding area is forests, and if you’re lucky, you might just spot some wildlife. You can also try mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing all while camping in the wild.

Deerfield River, Massachusetts

Best US rafting Top 10 United States whitewater rafting rivers Deerfield River Flickr CC image by EaglebrookSchool

Northern USA isn’t known for its whitewater, which is why the Deerfield River is a favorite in that part of the country. A 2-3 hour drive from Boston, the Monroe Bridge Dryway is home to the best rapids, ranging from a class 4 to 5, and sometimes higher.

Flowing from Vermont to Massachusetts, this river passes through the Rocky Mountains and has some scary drops. For rafting experts, this is the best spot in Northern USA. You can also explore and camp at the Berkshires Forest. Expect beautiful landscapes and plenty of wildlife in this untamed part of the country.

Best US rafting: Final thoughts

Whitewater rafting can be exhilarating or relaxing depending on the river you choose. So finding the right river is so essential to the planning process.

Middle Fork Salmon River by Northwest Rafting Company

We hope this comprehensive list helps make your decision a little easier! Remember, always take safety precautions seriously as although rafting is one of the safer extreme sports there are still dangers involved.

If you are planning a white water adventure be sure to check out our rafting discounts as you could save a fortune.


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