All posts by Zaman


Rogue River History

rogue_river_mapThe Rogue River area is steeped in interesting history and lore. Even how the region acquired its name, the Rogue, dates back to the earliest of Oregon inhabitants. History books tell us that the native Indians were a particularly troublesome lot to the French who were the first white men to explore this territory, so they dubbed them “Les Coquins,” or “the Rogues.” The French then extended the name to the region and then next to the river because it was such an integral part of the lives of the Indians, providing transportation, food and other necessities of life.

Over the years, the Rogue River and its people, continued to build a colorful history. A history filled with tales of gold, fish, adventurers, floods, dreams, dams, and much more. The one constant that wound and wrapped itself through every historical twist and turn was the river, the mighty Rogue.

Tucked away in Crater Lake National Park, tiny streams bubble up from beneath moss-covered rocks. It is here that the Rogue River is born…quietly bubbling up out of these tiny streams. From this minute beginning, the incredible Rogue River carves its way through 215 miles of rock and stone before it spills into the Pacific Ocean. These Rogue River headwater streams are known as the Boundary Springs and-along with Crater Lake-give the mighty Rogue River its life.

To understand some of the places and the history that grew up around the Rogue River, you should take a minute and review with us the three distinct areas of the River: the Upper Rogue, the Middle Rogue, and the Lower Rogue.

UPPER ROGUE: (Boundary Springs/Crater Lake to the town of Prospect)

About 40 river miles

This section of the Rogue is paralleled by a major highway and tourist route from Crater Lake national park. The river cuts through volcanic rock, drifts past alder-lined banks and Douglas fir and pine-oak forests, riffles over gravel beds and bedrock and slips under bridges and behind new homes, weaving its path through the heart of Jackson County.

The Upper Rogue is fed by snowmelt and springs originating on the peaks of the Cascade Range, including the slopes of Mt. Mazama-the volcanic caldera that contains Crater Lake. Along the uppermost portion of the Upper Rogue, the river is narrow and shallow but very swift. Numerous moss-draped snags of lodge pole pines and other trees that have fallen across the river slow its pace only a little. The river has, for a two-mile stretch, carved more than 200′ down into the Mazama pumice (which was deposited about 8,000 years ago during the explosion that created Crater Lake.) This sheer, white-walled canyon, with the whitewater river glinting in the sunlight far below, is a favorite sight for travelers along Highway 230.

In addition to its clear, clean water and scenic beauty, the Upper Rogue is notable for its history. Parallel to Highway 62 between Farewell Bend and Natural Bridge, it passes through part of the Union Creek Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the rustic 1920s – 30s buildings at Union Creek Resort and the nearby former ranger station. At Union Creek Wayside, a traveler’s comfort station along Highway 62, an interpretive kiosk tells the history of Union Creek. (The community of Union Creek was named after Union Peak in Crater Lake National Park. Union Peak got its name in 1862 when it was christened by a couple of prospectors, Chauncy Nye and Hiram G. Abbott. The prospectors were mindful of the country’s Civil War, which had begun the year before, when they named it. The name stuck, even though there was a large population of people with pro-Confederate feelings in Jackson County.)

Following along the banks of the Upper Rogue is the Upper Rogue River Trail…a designated National Recreation Trail. Because of various road crossings, much of this hiker-only trail is easily traveled for short segments at a time.

The Upper Rogue is considered extremely hazardous for whitewater boating due to its gorges, chutes, and many obstructions-ranging from “sweeper” logs across the river to the underground section at Natural Bridge.

Campgrounds located in this section of the Rogue include: Farewell Bend, Wayside, Abbott Creek/Woodruff Bridge, Mill Creek and River Bridge campgrounds.

MIDDLE ROGUE: (Prospect to Applegate)

The Rogue River is frequently more than 150 feet wide in this section. It flows through an ancient valley, formed about 1 million years ago when Western Oregon slowly uplifted to form the Pacific Coast Range.

This part of the river is especially noted for its runs of large, feisty spring Chinook, followed by the famed summer Steelhead. Avid fisherman say it offers the finest Steelhead fly-fishing on the river.

Long before the arrival of fur trappers, traders, miners and other settlers, several thousand natives lived in this valley. Collectively referred to as the Rogue River tribe, these natives were actually members of the Takelma, Shasta, Dakubetede or Applegate River tribes.

The arrival of white settlers to this area was triggered by the Donation Land Act, which awarded 640 acres of land to each couple who became settlers, and by the discovery of gold along the Rogue River in 1851.

Like the native tribes and the first white settlers, the people who live here today rely on the strength and endurance of the Rogue for recreation, livelihood, beauty, and inspiration.

The area offers abundant recreational choices. You can hire a fishing guide for a day and “hook a big one.” You can take a full-day or half-day float trip down rapids with such imposing names as: Rattlesnake Falls, Nugget Falls, and Powerhouse rapids. You can ride the wild twists and turns of the jet boats. You might even horseback ride along the trails that follow the Rogue’s meandering journey. Or, enjoy the unique and wonderful Oregon wines and vineyards that have been planted and tended along the Rogue’s fertile shorelines.

The small towns of Shady Cove (In the 1860s, pioneer Ham Watkins, who ran a ferry across the Rogue River before a bridge was built in the 1920s, was probably the first settler on a small, shady spot on the river just east of the town that later took its name), Gold Hill (is the site of an early gold discovery in Southern Oregon. The original Gold Hill settlement was on the south bank of the Rogue River, opposite the present city), Rogue River and the larger city of Grants Pass (As the story goes, news of the capture of Vicksburg during the Civil War by Union forces under General Ulysses Grant reached Southern Oregon, where workers were improving a road north of where the town is now. They celebrated by calling it Grants Pass.) are located along this section of the river.

The city of Gold Hill stakes its claim in this section of the Rogue River and has a deep history in…surprise…gold! The city traces its roots back to the discovery of a large gold nugget in 1852 at Big Bar on the Rogue River. More than 200 miners came running in response to the news, but their initial efforts were largely an exercise in futility. It took them years to develop lucrative gold mines. According to one report, since the first discovery of gold in the area, the mines of Jackson and Josephine Counties have yielded as much as $30 million worth of the precious metal. In 1860, the first quartz mine in the county was established in Gold Hill, and limestone, marl, and magnetic iron were also discovered in abundance.

Noted geographic formations known as Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock are also located in this section of the Rogue River. Upper and Lower Table Rocks, the landmark mesas that stand nearly 1,000 feet above the nearby Rogue River, were the site of the Rogue Indian Wars. The Table Rocks loom like watchtowers over the valley, and the 300 Indians who once lived in their shadows used to scale them to keep track of the incoming gold seekers and settlers who arrived to homestead on their land. Today, visitors can hike to the top of these rocks and enjoy panoramic, picturesque vistas of the Rogue River Valley.

LOWER ROGUE: Wild & Scenic Section

The Rogue was one of the original eight rivers included in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. This section begins 7 miles east of Grants Pass and ends 11 miles east of Gold Beach and stretches for 84 total miles. The Rogue River is one of the most desirable Pacific NW vacations because of its incredible beauty and wildlife-and because it has been protected for decades by the aforementioned “Wild and Scenic” act.

Steelhead and salmon fishing, challenging whitewater, and extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities have made the Rogue a national treasure. Black bear, river otter, black-tail deer, bald eagles, osprey, Chinook salmon, great blue heron, and Canada geese are common wildlife seen along the Rogue River. Popular activities include: whitewater rafting, fishing, jet boat tours, scenic driving, hiking, camping, picnicking, and sunbathing.

The Wild Section of the Lower Rogue River is one of the most popular whitewater runs in the world. Its popularity is heightened by a steady water level due to dams upstream, hot, sunny summer weather, and exciting whitewater rapids through lush forests and steep canyons. White Water Warehouse is one of a few BLM and USFS permittees authorized to run this incredible wild section from Graves Creek to Foster Bar. If you would like to join their professional team of rafting guides, check out White Water Warehouse’s schedule for dates and rates.

The Rogue’s lower section of river is steeped in history and heros as well. This is a place where cell phones won’t work. You won’t see much development. A few lodges and the wildlife will be your only companions. Those who choose to float this magnificent section of the river are privileged since the Bureau of Land Management, one of the governing bodies of the Rogue River, allows only 120 guests per day on this protected section of river. If you get the chance to raft, kayak or hike the lower Rogue, you will see rocks formed 190 million years ago as part of the Klamath Mountains. You’ll see “younger” rocks formed in the Coast Range around 50 million years ago. At the most infamous rapid on the river, known as Blossom Bar, big boulders strewn across the middle of the river are “younger” yet probably brought down Blossom Creek in a mudslide during the past 150 years to rest on 190-million-year-old bedrock, geologists say.

The highest the Rogue River has ever been measured at Agness is 68.03 feet on December 23, 1964. Flood stage is 17 feet. During the 1964 flood, the Rogue River poured out at 290,000 cubic feet per second, or 2,171,810 gallons flowing by every second. The second-highest level was 48.54 feet recorded on January 16, 1974.

Hiking and floating the wild section of the river is permit only from May 15 through October 15 each year. The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service are the two governing bodies that protect and regulate this section of the river.

The Rogue is one of the only “wild and scenic” designated rivers to also accommodate rustic, riverside lodges that welcome guests from early May through late November each year. Current Rogue River lodges include Black Bar, Marial, Halfmoon Bar, Paradise, Clayhill, and Illahe, Singing Springs, and Lucas Lodge.

Early Rogue pioneers included the famous Glen Wooldridge who many claim was the first person to navigate the Rogue in a wooden dory. His knowledge of running the Rogue’s whitewater rapids and fishing became the stuff of legends. He mentored many a fishing guide on the technicalities of the river.

Another famous Rogue homesteader was noted author Zane Grey. Known for his western novels and fishing novels set on the Rogue River, Grey built a cabin on the Rogue which can still be seen and visited today.

The lower Rogue’s beautiful whitewater is enhanced with names such as: Grave Creek, Wildcat, Horseshoe Bend, Mule Creek Canyon, Coffeepot, Blossom Bar, and Rainie Falls. The river’s rapids range from Class I through Class V…but most of the water is very family friendly-with guests enjoying the warm water and mellow stretches.

The main activities that guests enjoy on the Rogue River are rafting, kayaking, fishing, and hiking throughout the summer months.


Rogue River Hiking & Walking Trips

Rogue-River-Hiking-3Rogue River hiking trips feature stories of the dueling gold miners, Indian wars, and feuding neighbors all on Oregon’s famous Rogue River trail system while staying at lodges each evening!

These hiking adventures marry history and the beauty of the Rogue River canyon with the ease of staying in rustic lodges each evening. Private cabins and bathrooms at each of the lodges assures you the ultimate hiking experience.

Rogue_River_TrailHiking Oregon’s Rogue River trail is more than a trek; it is a history lesson. The 43-mile hike lasts for 4 days and 3 nights and winds through some of southern Oregon’s richest back country historical and ecological sites. The Rogue River-Siskiyou mountain range hike is not only stunningly beautiful but also home to some incredible moments in history. Hikers have a chance to live history by standing on sites where local Indian battles took place, discover the ruins of homes where neighbors shot and killed each other over gold mining claims, and even walk through old homesteads where home owners would spend winter months snowed-in waiting for food and rations to arrive by wagons coming over the mountains. Even the start of the Rogue River trail is historic. The trailhead is named Grave Creek after the grave of Martha Leland Crowley, a daughter of a pioneer couple. Martha was buried under an oak tree near the creek in 1846.

If the combination of interesting historical sites and beautiful scenery stirs something in your adventurous soul, check out our Rogue River hiking trips. They will not disappoint.


South Fork American River Rafting History

south-fork-american-peopleDuring the 1850s, when the gold-rush was reaching its peak on the south fork american river in Coloma, an interesting thing began taking place. Cultures began mixing their food and music, they shared stories, experiences and jokes. As they sat around the campfires, they learned from each other. As they worked in the mines in the hills and the dredges in the river, they began mixing their skills and talents.

160 years later, not much has changed. Now, however, rafters – not miners- mix their food, music and jokes. People come from all over the world. Raft guides in particular come from all corners of the earth with their music (Costa Rican salsa, New Zealand hip-hop, Irish punk-rock) and their stories and experiences. They learn different styles of running rivers, steering rafts, cooking tri-tip steaks. Much like the old miners, rafters sit around the campfire after work and swap stories and jokes. Considering that Whitewater Connection camp is 300 yards downstream of Sutter’s Mill, where James Marshall found the first gold nugget in 1848, it’s likely that rafters sing and laugh on the same spots along the South Fork American River as miners did.

How cool is that?


Adventure of Rogue River Rafting

Rogue-River-RaftingOnce you embark on your Oregon Rogue River rafting, kayaking or hiking vacation, you begin to understand what a magical place this is–and why Oregon’s Rogue River has been protected as a wild and scenic river since 1968. In fact, the Rogue River was one of the original twelve rivers designated under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Wild Rogue Wilderness Act augments the protection of Oregon’s Rogue River wild and scenic designation.

Rogue-River-Rafting-2Oregon’s pristine Rogue River flows deep into a wooded canyon, a botanically rich and diverse ecosystem, a true paradise. Depending on whether your looking at a north-facing or south-facing slop, the Rogue River canyon is either wet and lush or arid and sparse. Madrone trees with red bark peeling from their smooth trunks cluster on the Rogue’s southern exposed banks.

Rogue-River-Hiking-3The Rogue River’s most coveted Oregon rafting and kayaking run is this wild and scenic stretch beginning at Grave Creek and ending at Foster Bar. This is an Oregon rafting enthusiast’s dream, dropping through a series of spine-tingling rapids separated by quiet, even-flowing pools. These moments of quiet respite create an ideal setting for lying back and gazing at the spectacular canyon scenery that slides past your gliding raft or kayak.

Rogue-River-Hiking-4Glancing over to the mossy banks of the mighty Oregon Rogue River, you might likely spy a blue heron spiking a tiny fish for dinner, a black bear foraging for berries, an eagle keeping a lookout high in the trees for its next meal, or even a playful family of otters out to spin and twist in the Rogue’s waters…making you laugh out loud at their antics.

An Oregon Rogue River rafting adventure captures it all: history, folklore, wildlife, and fantastically eroded geologic features. For many folks, this is the best, most relaxing rafting vacation they have ever experienced…which is why they keep coming back year after year…to stay in touch with the unique character of Oregon’s Rogue River rafting and kayaking canyon.


Middle Fork American River

middle-fork-american-riverThe Middle Fork American River is a gem among California rivers. Its tributaries, the Rubicon and the North Fork of the Middle Fork, are frequented by kayakers in search of adrenalin in the high Sierras. On their way to the Middle Fork put-in, rafters can get a couple glimpses of these creeks. But it is the appearance of the Middle Fork‘s majestic canyon that captures their attention. The slow, winding Mosquito Ridge Road, high above the river, provides a couple look-outs over Tunnel Chute and Kanaka rapids. From these vantage points Whitewater Connection van drivers provide back-up safety for our rafting trips. Armed with radios and binoculars, like guardian angels from above, they monitor the rafts as they successfully descend each of these big rapids.

Rafting on the Middle Fork American River isn’t just about the whitewater. It’s about the whole day experience, the canyons, the scenery, the tributaries and small creeks joining the river. It’s about sharing with other people in the raft, learning from the guide. It’s about doing something challenging but fun with others, and growing from that experience.


Family Adventures

Many rivers offer a rafting experience that is ideal for families and children. Rafting combines the very best elements of a summer holiday: excitement, adventure, scenery, camping, great food. Rafting can also be a multi-generational trip. As many as three generations (grandparents, parents and children) have safely paddled down rivers together!

Going with a professional rafting company is essential to ensure your safety and comfort. Many questions should be asked of your prospective rafting outfitter:

  • What type of rafts are available?
  • Which rafting trip is best for my family and what is the minimum age/weight to go rafting?
  • How long have you been offering trips to families and what safety standards do you use on trips with children or older adults?

What are the Types of Rafts Available?

An important question to ask your rafting outfitter is what types of rafts do they use (type of propulsion)? The following types of rafts are available:

Paddle rafts:

Each person in the raft gets a paddle and one professional guide who sits in the back calling out commands and steering the boat. This is the most popular means of rafting today, but does require the participation of everyone when doing rapids of moderate difficulty (Class 3 or higher). In Class 1 or 2 rapids, paddling is not so critical that everyone must be paddling. Younger kids could jump to the front of the raft in these rapids and just hang on. Paddle rafting is a true participation sport and paddle rafts are used on all classes of whitewater from Class 1-5. Paddle rafts are the preferred type of raft for most Class 3 and 4 whitewater trips. Paddle rafts can also do extreme whitewater as they are ideal on technical and steep rivers with an expert guide at the helm. Many of the Class 5 rivers that are run commercially use paddle rafts.

Oar rafts:

Oar rafts are simply rafts with a large rectangular rowing frame strapped in securely to the raft, either in the middle or the back of the boat (stern). This frame will have a seat for the guide and two pins or oarlocks that support the oars. The guide will sit facing downstream and row through the rapids. The oars are quite powerful and the guide often does not need additional paddlers. However, on some rivers with Class 3 and 4 whitewater, participants may each have a paddle and the guide will call out commands for them to paddle. In this case, the company should use a stern-mounted frame so that all the paddlers are in front of the guide.

A specialized type of oar raft, the cataraft, is typically two large tubes with an oar frame attached. Catarafts are capable of running extreme whitewater rapids and big holes, and for this reason, are often used as safety rafts on Class 4 and 5 rivers.


Motor rafts:

Motorized rafts are very common on large-volume rivers in North America.The Grand Canyon of the Colorado and the Thompson River in British Columbia are two of the most popular rivers for motorized rafting. Participants merely sit and hold on through the rapids so it is particularly popular with seniors and those that don’t want to actively paddle. One unique advantage is that motor rafts can zip back upstream and re-run some rapids.


Jet Boats:

Not technically a raft, but jet boats are now operating on many river sections that rafts also navigate. Some people may think this is a type of rafting as these boats frequently jet up and down whitewater rapids.


What Type of Raft trip is Best for my Family?

What type of raft trip is best for your family depends on the following factors:

  • Age and experience of the family members
  • Difficulty of the whitewater and special river hazards or features
  • Personal preference for an active or passive trip
  • Length of trip desired

Age and experience are important factors in deciding the type of trip. Every outfitter has different age limits for their trips and they will tell you what river is best. A few outfitters will take young children from ages 5 and up, especially if they are just doing a float trip. We recommend that families with young children try an easy river (Class 1 – 2) as a day trip (2 to 4 hours in length) to see how the children and parents enjoy the trip. These trips are often marketed as scenic float trips.

Whitewater trips that feature Class 3 rapids will usually have a minimum age of between 8 and 12. These age limits are often set by the outfitters based on their judgment. They may also ask you about the weight of your children since lifejackets have a weight rating. In our experience, children under the ages of 8 or 9 (usually less than 60 pounds), are not very good paddlers and thus should go in an oar raft or a paddle raft with other stronger paddlers. If your children enjoy camping, an overnight rafting trip would be a highlight of the summer.

Class 4 trips are best when your children are teenagers as most companies will have a minimum age limit of 12 to 14 for more challenging rivers. Check to see if any special river hazards or features exist such as extremely cold water, log hazards, portages (carry around an unrunnable rapid) or other features that you should be aware of. Swimming ability is a must when running Class 4.

An important consideration in choosing your trip is how active you want to be. If you’d rather just sit and enjoy the scenery, then an oar or motor raft trip is the best choice. If you want to be an active participant and feel the reward of paddling the river, then a paddle raft is your only option.

Multi-day rafting expedition trips, usually using oar rafts, are an incredible family experience. Chances are you’ll have miles and miles of floating, perfect for the guide to row you and your family while you relax, enjoy the scenery, float in the river, or try your hand at fishing. Motor rafts are an option on a few large volume rivers and one advantage is that they can speed up the trip during the calm sections. For example, motorized trips on the Grand Canyon are much shorter (7 days) than oar or paddle trips (up to 14 days or longer).

Why Company Experience is Important on a Family Rafting Trip

More experience generally means better judgment on the river.  River trips with young children should offer a little excitement but the trip should not scare them either. Younger children have fun getting splashed on a Class 2 rapid and many Class 3 rapids are also appropriate. Some companies have a policy that only senior guides, those with 3 or more seasons of guiding, take families with children especially when the river has Class 3 or higher rapids.  On any Class 2, 3 or 4 rapid, guides usually have many options in terms of how they run the rapid. Some routes are definitely more exciting and challenging and others are easier. Senior guides with more years of experience can best determine which route to take families with children.

In general, the outfitters on each river are the best judge of the type of trip that is best for you and your family. However, you should check with several companies because not all have the same standards of safety, customer service or experience on the river.

It makes sense to ask the outfitter how many years of experience their guides have or even request a senior guide for your raft. Some companies have such high turnover from year to year that many of their guides are new or even first-year guides. Others may employ guides with 10 seasons of raft guiding under their belt on rivers around the world. Again, these are questions that you should be asking particularly if you are rafting Class 3+ rapids.



Thrill Seekers

Looking for an adrenaline rush? While rafting on any river any time is a guaranteed good time, many paddlers are looking for the ultimate in excitement and challenge. If that’s the case and you are ready for an extreme test, you’ll want to try rafting a river with Class 4 or 5 rapids. We’ve outlined the Class 1-6 classification system of rapids in our Rafting 101 section. Class 4 and 5 rapids are generally the most challenging that a professional rafting company will run commercial rafting guests. You should be in good physical condition and be a strong swimmer in case you find yourself floating through one of the rapids on your own!

Below is a list of popular Class 4 and 5 runs in North America, many of which are offered by members. Please remember that Class ratings do vary with river levels and other factors. A Class 4 run may be a Class 5 river in high water or seem like a Class 3 river at low water. So ask the outfitters what river levels are likely to be like on the day you come rafting. Most will not be able to give you exact river flow information, but in general, they can tell you what the river is normally like during the time you are coming.


  • Kennebec River Gorge Run: Class 4 during high water flows
  • Penobscot River, West Branch: Class 4-4+

New York:

  • Hudson River (Indian River to North River): Class 4 at high water flows
  • Moose River: Class 4-5
  • Black River: Class 4

West Virginia:

  • Cheat River: Class 4 at moderate flows
  • Tygart River: Class 4-5
  • New River Gorge: Class 4-
  • Gauley River: Class 4-5


  • Russell Fork: Class 5

North Carolina:

  • Watauga Gorge: Class 5
  • Nolichucky River: Class 4 at high flows


  • Chattooga River (Section 4): Class 4+


  • Selway River: Class 4


  • Upper Colorado River (Gore Canyon): Class 5-5+
  • Animas River (upper section): Class 5

New Mexico:

  • Rio Grande (Taos Box): Class 4


  • Colorado River (Grand Canyon): Class 4+


  • Forks of the Kern: Class 5
  • Tuolumne River (Cherry Creek): Class 5
  • Tuolumne River (Clavey Falls run): Class 4-4+
  • Trinity River (Burnt Ranch Gorge): Class 5
  • Cal Salmon: Class 4-5

British Columbia:

  • Nahatlatch (including Canyon): Class 4-4+
  • Stein: Class 5
  • Chilko (Lava Canyon): Class 4+
  • Fraser (Hell’s Gate): Class 4+
  • Thompson: Class 4 at high water

Yukon & Alaska:

  • Alsek (Turnback Canyon): Class 4-5

Whitewater Rafting 101

Never been rafting?

Planning your first rafting trip can be intimidating.  As a beginner you may have many questions: Where do I find whitewater? What do I need to know? Is rafting safe? Do I need to be experienced?

The best way to experience rafting for the first time is sign up for a trip with a reputable and professional rafting company armed with a little bit of rafting knowledge.

Rating the Rapids

First, not all rafting trips are created equal. Rivers can be relatively calm and benign or be raging maelstroms of whitewater and it is important to be aware of different rafting classifications for rapids and how the various trips are actually marketed to the public.

Rapids are rated on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being the easiest and 6 the most difficult. Any rating system is only a rough approximation of what you may actually encounter as rapids are greatly affected by river flows (volume) and other factors. Basic definitions for each class of whitewater are presented below:

Class 1:

Moving water with a few riffles and small waves but no major obstacles.

Class 2:

Bigger waves but no major obstructions in the channel.

Class 3:

Longer and more difficult rapids, hydraulics are bigger (waves, holes, currents). Some technical maneuvering is required but usually for a limited number of moves.

Class 4:

Steeper, longer or more heavily obstructed than Class 3 rapids. Usually, more technical and require many maneuvers. Scouting of rapids may be required prior to running. Swimming Class 4 is challenging.

Class 5:

Strong currents, big waves, boulders, restricted routes and powerful holes that can hold or flip rafts. Scouting is mandatory. Portaging around rapid may be required depending on river levels. Swimming Class 5 rapids is extremely challenging.

Class 6:

Considered unrunnable such as a large waterfall or an extremely violent section of whitewater with severe hazards. Risks include injury or loss of life. Commercial rafting outfitters do not provide rafting trips on rapids with Class 6 ratings.

River volume, water temperature, gradient and river hazards all play a role in determining the appropriate rating of a rapid. High water flows can easily increase the river class one or two levels so rapids that are normally Class 4 could increase to Class 5 or 6 levels.

For those unsure how exciting or dangerous a river may be, try using the standard symbols for downhill skiing as follows:

  • Green Circle=easy (Class 2)
  • Blue Square=Intermediate (Class 3)
  • Black Diamond=Advanced (Class 4)
  • Double Black Diamond=Extreme (Class 5).

Doing a double black diamond ski run or a Class 5 river is not a safe proposition for a first timer. Try starting at a comfortable level and moving up the scale. Always remember that high water can increase a rating so if you are going rafting during the high water season, plan accordingly when choosing your river run.

Finding the Best River

Although rafting is available world-wide, certain areas are recognized as premier rafting locations:

  • Western United States: California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, Arizona
  • Western Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon
  • Southeastern United States: West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee
  • Northeastern United States: New York, Maine, Pennsylvania
  • Eastern Canada: Ontario, Quebec
  • Mexico & Central America: Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras
  • South America: Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina
  • Africa: Zambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda
  • Europe & Asia: France, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Turkey, Nepal, India, Japan
  • South Pacific: New Zealand, Australia


Length of River Trips

In addition to river difficulty and location, you also need to know the different types of trips available and the length of a trip. In general, rafting trips can be divided into short-duration trips of 1-2 days and long-duration or expedition trips of 3 or more days.

Short duration trips include day trips and overnight trips, typically 1-2 days in length. A day trip is typically a rafting trip of 3 to 5 hours duration, though many trips are shorter or longer. An overnight trip includes one or more nights camping or lodging and one or two days rafting. Short duration trips can feature anything from Class 1 to 5 rapids, but most whitewater day trips provided by professional river-rafting companies feature Class 3 and 4 rapids.

Long duration or multi-day expedition trips are typically 3 to 14 days in length. Many rafting expeditions feature big whitewater whereas others may consist of slow-moving Class 1-2 water and the main highlight is the scenery. Others provide a mix of floating and whitewater. For example, the legendary Grand Canyon of the Colorado is 90% Class 1-2 rapids interspersed with huge Class 4 rapids.

Price of River Trips

How much should you pay for your rafting trip? As expected, pricing varies greatly by region and is subject to a number of factors such as permit restrictions (fewer the permits, generally the higher the price) and other market factors. In general, companies price according to their level of experience and quality of trip. If an outfitter is charging much less than others in the market, it may indicate price competition, fewer frills provided, and possibly a lower standard of customer care.

Because safety is so important, ask your prospective outfitter how long they have operated, how many trips or years have they operated on this river, what kind of safety record do they have and do they employ any special safety features on the trips. For example, on some rivers, companies provide full-body wetsuits for protection from the river temperature and hazards and safety kayakers that follow the trip and look out for swimmers. Helmets are generally recommended on Class 3 and above rapids but some companies do not provide them even on Class 4 or higher whitewater. Standards do vary significantly among companies and by country.