Tuolumne River – Cherry Creek

raftinNo doubt about it: this is the  ultimate!

With a phenomenally steep gradient averaging 110 feet per mile, the Cherry  Creek/Upper Tuolumne run is the most challenging run in the U.S. and the standard by which  Class V runs are measured. This intense and demanding stretch of river in the Stanislaus National Forest comprises long, nearly continuous rapids and only short pools.


“The Creek’s” unparalleled array of chutes, holes, ledges and falls, amidst gigantic boulders, include rapids such as Jawbone, Mushroom, Miracle Mile, Lewis’ Leap and Flat Rock Falls. A training seminar and Class V paddler’s test are  required for this thrill ride.


Tons River

india_tons_riverTons River (India): The Tons river flows through Garhwal, the western part of the Himalayan state of Uttaranchal, bordering Himachal Pradesh.


With its source in the 20,720ft high Bandarpunchh mountain.Below Tiuni, we encounter Foreplay, Premature Ejaculation, a series of Class III+ rapids, followed by Channel Rapid, Pillow talk, Thrice Bitten, Deadly Dedsu before the bridge at Atal.





Rafting-On-Tons-RiverDay 02 begins with several Class 3 rapids after which we flow into a gorge where we tackle the Lone Ranger, Three Musketeers, and the Roaring Bagni. We paddle through a long gorge where we hear ample chatter of monkeys and the call of cuckoos. Palm trees grow at the edge of cliffs and their roots drop 80 ft into the nourishing water of the Tons.

The gorge opens out at the bridge near Minus and the river flows gently for the next 10 kms till we reach Major Surprise, the biggest rapid on the trip. Major Surprise is followed by a series of big rapids before the river flattens out again near the dam at Icchari.


Thompson River

Section of river: Thompson River (Spences Bridge BC to Lytton BC)
Difficulty: Class 5 sections at high water; Class 3-4 at moderate and low water levels
(Class V swim, but Class IV technical difficulty)
Length: 40 KM (25 miles)
Season: April to October; prime season is July to September

The large, warm, rolling rapids of the Thompson River are legendary. The Thompson snakes through hot, desert-like country (300 blue-sky days every year), mixing calm stretches with huge whitewater action. Lurking in the last 16 km above Lytton BC are 18 heart-thumping rapids with chilling names like Jaws of Death, Devil’s Kitchen, Witch’s Cauldron and Washing Machine.

Thompson_RiverAs the biggest tributary of the Fraser River, the Thompson carries about one-third the flow of the mighty Fraser River and is a large-volume river by rafting standards. Flows range from an average peak of 100,000 cfs in June to a low of 12,000 cfs in October.

Each water level displays different features and characteristics of the river and its rapids. The rapids are always huge but are not technical at high water levels. As the river drops the runs become increasingly more technical and challenging. Sometimes the 15-foot waves tower above you before crashing down like a frothing, green locomotive, especially in the Jaws of Death rapid, the most famous on the river.

44Motorized rafts are the preferred type of raft during high water in May in June. As a general rule, motors rafts are recommended for first-time river runners on the Thompson in May, June and July. Seniors, children, non-swimmers and anyone who has a “fear” of water may find the motor rafts ideal. Rafters hang onto a hand line as the raft bucks wildly in the big rapids. A guide controls the raft using an outboard motor. Motorized rafts are up to 22 feet in length and can take up to 22 passengers. From July until the end of September, self-bailing paddle rafts and oar rafts are used on the river. These rafts will vary in length from 16 to 20 feet and will take 12-16 rafters per boat.


Stein River

Section of river: Stein River (Devils Staircase to take-out on the Fraser River)
Difficulty: Class 5+ in high water; Class 4-5 in moderate and low water levels
Length: 6 KM (4 miles) on Stein plus 5 KM floating on the Fraser River
Season: August to September
Best rapids: A, B or See What Happens, Touching the Void, Down the Drain, Rooster Tail, Notch Waterfall

stein-raft-18The Stein River is one of the most challenging white water rafting adventures offered in Canada. Plunging through a beautiful wilderness canyon, the Stein is the steepest river that is commercially rafted in Canada (145 feet per mile drop). The run is ideal for advanced whitewater paddlers.

2-day Stein trips include one full day of training on the Nahatlatch Canyon. Stein practice drills may include raft flipping and swimming rapids. Day two begins with a shuttle to the Stein Valley trailhead at the entrance to the Nlaka’ Pamux Park. The rafts are rolled sausage style for the 5 Km hike to the put-in below the Devils Staircase, an unrunnable Class 6 rapid. Each participant must assist in carrying the rafting and safety equipment such as paddles, lifejackets, pumps and dry bags. The hike takes 1.5 to 2 hours.

stein-river1The Stein kicks off with a series of extreme Class 4 and 5 drops. The river is chock-a-block with big boulders and holes and crews will quickly learn to high-side and use the boulders effectively in navigating the river. At the Class 5 rapid named Touching the Void, rafts are usually portaged at most water levels. Below the Void, the Stein is mostly Class 4+ whitewater, but because the river is so steep it has to be considered grade 5. Flipping or wrapping a boat could result in a long swim.

The amazing thing about the Stein: no calm sections! After at least 30 Class 4 and 5 rapids, the Stein drops right into the Fraser River. The trip take-out is located on the Fraser River at the cable car ferry just north of Lytton BC. Some of the best rapids include Touching the Void, Down the Drain, Notch Waterfall and Rooster Tail.


Stanislaus River – North Fork

Section of river: Stanislaus River, North Fork (Sourgrass to Big Trees)
Difficulty: Class 4+
Length: 6 miles; 10 KM
Season: April- May
Best rapids: Beginners Luck, Convulsion (Blow Your Lunch), Upper & Lower Sequoia Falls

North_Fork_DropJust two and a half hours from Sacramento and three and a half hours from San Francisco, the North Fork of the Stanislaus is close to many metropolitan areas.  The quaint foothill town of Murphys is just a short half-hour drive from the put-in and the trip finishes in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, home to some of the largest Sequoia trees on the planet.

The North Fork of the Stanislaus River is a unique High Sierra river that thunders through five miles of granite gorges and deep alpine forest glens.

North_Fork_Stanislaus_Whitewater_RaftingFrom the put-in at Sourgrass Crossing, which lies at 4000 feet in elevation, to the take-out near the Giant Sequoia groves of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, you’ll raft through dark green woodlands of towering pine and fir trees, endless wild azaleas and dogwoods, and old Me-wuk Indian sites.  Best of all, you’ll challenge the most technical and intense Class IV whitewater in California.

The “North Stan,” with its 70 ft/mi. gradient, cascades over massive drops and holes, creating huge adrenaline-pumping rapids.  The river allows little to no warm-up time before boaters face the biggest drop of on the river, Class IV Beginner’s Luck – an immense staircase of drops, descending a total of 15-feet. After that wake-up call, the whitewater keeps coming in tight chutes and boulder-choked passageways like The Claw and Wallet Slot, The Thing and the mighty Sequoia Falls.  This river trip is recommended for paddlers with previous whitewater experience or very aggressive first-time rafters.

The “North Stan” is an early spring time river. Even though there is one dam above this stretch of river, there are no regular releases and the river depends on snowmelt below the dam for its flows. Flows are usually best from mid-April to late-May but occasionally last into June or July. Even though season is limited on the North Stan, avid rafters don’t want to miss this classic California run.


Snake River – Hells Canyon

snake_river_in_hells_canyon4Straddling the borders of Idaho and Oregon, Hells Canyon of the Snake River is the deepest gorge in North America.

According to Nez Perce Indian legend, the mythical figure “coyote” dug Hells Canyon with a big stick to protect the Indians’ ancestors in Oregon’s Blue Mountains from the “Seven Devils” across the gorge in Idaho.  A rafting adventure through Hells Canyon is a voyage through a land rich in myth and geologic wonder.

Running from south to north, the Snake River in Hells Canyon cuts through some of the most rugged, spectacular landscape on earth.

This is home to some of the biggest whitewater rafting rapids in the American West, created where boulders and rock slides have rolled into the river.  Huge waves, big holes and warm water make this a whitewater wonder!


Betweenrow-adventure-center the rapids on the Snake River, there’s plenty of time to kick back and marvel at the snow-capped peaks some of which are over a mile above the river.  Mountains of golden grass and pine forests decorate the canyon and wildlife includes soaring eagles, ambling bears or wild mountain goat.




snakeriver_splash_rowThe Snake River offers fantastic fishing for trout, small mouth bass and North America’s largest freshwater fish, the white sturgeon.  Rafters can also learn more about the pioneers who homestead here and to see the well-preserved Indian rock art.  Most everyone enjoys swimming in the near 70-degree water.


San Juan River

ldgaylecourtneyBy the late 1870′s, the Mormons had colonized virtually every corner of Utah before pushing the boundaries of “Zion” southeast to the isolated canyons of the San Juan River. It was on the San Juan that Norman Nevills, a pioneer of commercial river running, began his first river trip with a new bride and a boat built from outhouse planks.

This country is a mecca for the lover of slickrock, precious Indian cultural sites, and warm-water rapids.

20_holidayexpeditionsYour guide can lead you through side canyons to polished limestone swimming pools, or to the canyon rim for an endless vista of Monument Valley, the landscape synonymous with the “John Wayne Western”.

Flowing faster than any other river in Utah, the San Juan has scores of small rapids. In addition, sand waves caused by shifting sands on the river bottom add several spontaneous roller-coaster rides to the 83-mile trip.


Salt River

Section of river: Salt River (Upper Salt River Canyon from Globe, AZ on White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation to the Hwy 288 bridge near Roosevelt Reservoir)
Difficulty: Class 1-4
Length: 1-4 days
Season: March to mid-May
Best rapids: Maytag Chute, Mother Rock, Exhibition, Quartizite Falls, Black Rock, the Maze and Corkscrew

salt-river-001Like all rivers, the Salt River has unique characteristics. Its outstanding beauty and grandeur are partly a result of its location on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau.

The Salt River is host to a vast quantity of plants, animals and birdlife that depend on its varied ecosystem to survive and thrive. It offers an outstanding recreational opportunity with its many world class rapids and stunning biological diversity.


The Salt River Canyon is truly one of the southwest’s hidden treasures. The Salt is a class III and IV whitewater river that drops an average 25 feet per mile for over 50 miles through rocky, inaccessible canyons. It flows through oak and juniper woodlands down into striking Lower Sonoran desert vegetation with its giant multi-armed saguaro cactus and profusion of cactus of every description.

arizona-rafting-by-wildernessSeveral side canyons reveal oasis-like microhabitats that are a moist reprieve from the prickly cactus environment. Excellent scenic riverside campsites are abundant and accessible only by raft. Only two commercial groups of twelve people per day are permitted to raft in the Salt Canyon Wilderness (below the Apache reservation), assuring rafters a quality wilderness experience.

Maytag Chute, Mother Rock and Exhibition are the first rapids you will encounter. As you wind your way down the Canyon and enter into the Salt River Canyon Wilderness you will experience rapids such as Quartizite Falls, Black Rock, the Maze and Corkscrew.

The Salt River is located 2 hours northeast of Phoenix and a similar distance north of Tucson, Arizona.


Salmon River – Middle Fork

Section of river: Boundary Creek to Confluence of the Middle Fork and Main Salmon
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 100 miles; 162 KM
Season: May – September
Best rapids: Velvet Falls, Ramshorn, Redside, Rubber, Hancock, Haystack

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe Middle Fork of the Salmon River is a legendary white water rafting paradise and the most famous wilderness alpine river in North America! The river boasts more than 100 rapids during the 105-mile trip.  The many class III-IV rapids coupled with spectacular canyon beauty make for an unforgettable 5-6 day whitewater rafting trip. This free-flowing river drops 3000 feet through the remote and spectacular River of No Return Wilderness. Natural and untamed, the Middle Fork has been protected by the US Congress as one of America’s first Wild and Scenic Rivers.

middle-fork-salmon-raftTrips begin at nearly 6000 feet above sea level and the first couple of days flow through an enchanted forest of fir and spruce. The rapids are frequent and challenging. As the river drops in elevation, it widens and opens to vistas of pine-studded mountains. Rafters drift quietly over deep pools of transparent water, home to native cutthroat and rainbow trout. There are a large number of Indian rock paintings and pioneer homesteads along the way, each with stories to tell. On the last two days, the river enters Impassable Canyon where vertical granite cliffs spiral up into the heavens.

middle_fork_of_the_salmon5If all this wasn’t enough, there are also hot springs, fantastic hiking trails and superlative fishing for native cutthroat trout.  In planning your trip, remember that higher water and more demanding rapids are found in May and June, while July and August offer warmer weather and better fishing.

Of all the rivers that flow through Idaho, perhaps the most spectacular is the Middle Fork of the Wild and Scenic Salmon River. Considered by many to be North America’s premier alpine river experience, the Middle Fork Salmon boasts non-stop, Class III-IV whitewater, natural hot springs, and excellent fishing.

And then there’s the scenery—soft meadows that roll towards the base of soaring mountains, craggy canyons ribboned with waterfalls, deep green forests and grassy hills dotted with wildflowers…the diversity and beauty of the Middle Fork is stunning.

Over time Idaho’s wilderness has remained relatively unchanged through centuries of western expansion. Sheepeater Indians once made their home along the banks of the Middle Fork, and remaining pictographs and other relics recount the story of their pastoral life. Remnants of the Old West days—including mines and prospectors’ cabins—also still exist near the river.

middle-fork-white-water-rowIn 1968 with the passage of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Middle Fork of the Salmon was recognized as having “unusual scientific, aesthetic and recreational value” and mandating that it “should be allowed to remain in a free-flowing state and natural setting without manmade alteration.” It was one of the original eight rivers to be granted this designation, and thankfully, its crowning attributes are preserved to this day.

Although renowned for its whitewater, one of the most notable highlights of the Middle Fork Salmon is its constantly changing terrain. Beginning at 6000 feet in elevation, the Middle Fork is initially a high alpine river. But as it continues, the scenery changes significantly as the river travels through forested hills, open, rolling grasslands, and finally into a narrow, rocky gorge called Impassable Canyon. Along the way, waterfalls and fern-fringed creeks splash unto the river, sandy beaches flank its shores, and natural hot springs offer an indulgent reprieve from running rapids.

middle_fork_of_the_salmon3Rated a solid Class IV, the Middle Fork Salmon has more rapids than any similar-length river in the U.S.—over 100 rapids in 100 miles. Rapids such as Velvet Falls, Ramshorn, Redside, Rubber, Hancock and Haystack rapids are sure to please even the most experienced paddlers. Turn by turn, as each tributary surges into the river, the Middle Fork dramatically changes character from a big creek into a thundering river, all the while creating rolling wave trains and thrilling drops.


Salmon River – Main

Section of river: Salmon River, Main (Idaho)
Difficulty: Class 3-4
Length: 5-6 days
Season: June to September
Best rapids: Gunbarrel, Ranier, Devil’s Teeth, Salmon Falls, Bailey Falls, Split Rock, Big Mallard, Elk Horn, Jackson, Ludwig, Vinegar & Chittam Creek

ldscenicThere is a green hole in the middle of Idaho. A spot refreshingly empty on your highway map. A place where pavement never was…and wild rivers still are…raw country, 20,000 square miles of it, and right through the middle runs the Salmon River- The River of No Return.

Cutting the second deepest canyon in North America, the Salmon River is a clear mountain river with pine forests and white sandy beaches. The canyon abounds in deserted homesteads and, of special interest to river travelers, natural hot springs: aah…feels good. One crowd appreciates this roadless country even more than us. Deer, bighorn sheep, moose, birds of prey, elk, bear and the frolicking river otter call this refuge home.

Translucent emerald water, responding to the drop and irregularities of the river bottom, form over forty rapids. That means you have first class whitewater on each day of the trip. Around July the hands-on types can request inflatable kayaks and meet the River of No Return on their own terms.

ldgaylecourtneySome rivers are renowned for their rapids and some are well-known for their scenery. The Main Salmon is most famous for its personality. It is what every good friend should be: welcoming, tolerant, supportive, and just a little unpredictable. Everyone who travels down this magnificent river falls in love with it; with the grand scenery, the fascinating history, the big waves, the soothing hot springs, the gentle hikes, the diverse wildlife, and the giant sandy beaches.

mainsalmon2The whitewater is largely of the “pool and drop” variety common to our other rivers, with class II, III, and IV rapids:  Killum Point, Big Mallard, Devil’s Teeth, Growler, Dried Meat, and Salmon Falls are just a few.

Cutting due west across the heart of the Idaho back-country and through the center of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, (the largest Wilderness Area in the lower 48), the Main Salmon has long been an alluring place.

Native Americans inhabited the canyons for thousands of years and left behind mysterious reminders of their presence; William Clark (of Lewis and Clark) started down the river in 1805, then turned around and looked elsewhere for the fabled Northwest Passage; Polly Bemis, a Chinese immigrant, found solace from a cruel life (as described in A Thousand Pieces of Gold) at her homestead and in her gardens along the river; white settlers, some more successful than others, left a variety of cabins, homesteads, ranches and even a fort (“Buckskin Bill” built a gun tower to protect himself from invading government bureaucrats!). Today the river provides a reflective pathway through a beautiful canyon and a glimpse of American history.