Merced River

Section of river: Merced River (Rosebud to Railroad Flat)
Difficulty: Class 3-4
Length: 15 miles; 24 KM
Season: April – June
Best rapids: Chipped Tooth, Stark Reality, Cranberry, Percolator, Ned’s Gulch

Merced_River_CanyonFlowing from the High Sierra, the Merced River is a defining characteristic of world renowned Yosemite National Park.  Cascading through the park, this free-flowing river flows into Yosemite Valley, tumbling over the spectacular Nevada and Vernal falls along the way.  Reaching the valley floor, the Merced’s crystal-clear waters meander through the park, past a backdrop of aspens, cottonwood and evergreens, grassy meadows and dramatic, glacier-carved mountain peaks.

merced-scenicUpon leaving Yosemite, the Merced explodes into a flurry of whitewater, leaving its gentle nature behind at the park boundary.  Between Rosebud and Railroad flat there is an excellent – if not widely known – stretch of Class III-IV rapids that deliver a premier river rafting experience.   This nationally designated Wild & Scenic River offers a quietly beautiful yet wildly exciting river trip featuring mile after mile of huge wave trains and long staircase drops, delivering nearly non-stop whitewater thrills.

However, the Merced is still accessible for aggressive beginners; its intensity is kept somewhat in check by a general lack of obstacles amidst the rapids and the calm, glassy pools that provide a reprieve between bursts of whitewater.  One word of warning – the Merced’s free-flowing waters, dependent solely on snowmelt, keep its season short and sweet; Merced trips generally run from April through June or early-July only.


Lochsa River

256px-LochsaheadwatersFew whitewater rafting trips anywhere on earth offer as much continuous, explosive whitewater as the Lochsa (pronounced Lock-Saw).

This is big white water!  Huge waves, raft-swallowing holes, paddler-quenching excitement and awesome scenery make this a whitewater rafting vacation classic.  The whitewater rapids themselves are exceptionally long and frequent.

From its headwaters in the Bitterroot Mountains to its confluence with the Selway and Clearwater rivers, the Lochsa pounds and churns through more than 40 major rapids.  The Grim Reaper, Bloody Mary, Ten Pin Alley, Mile Long and the incomparable Lochsa Falls are just a sampling of names on this exciting 1 to 3-day whitewater river trip.  If you’ve rafted West Virginia’s Gauley, or California’s Tuolumne you’ll love Idaho’s wild Lochsa.

lochsa_river2One of the original rivers protected by the US Congress in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Lochsa is free flowing and as the winter snows begin to melt, rafting trips on the Lochsa begin.  The Lochsa rafting season starts in early May and goes until the water gets too low for rafting, which can be anytime from the middle of July to the middle of August. The river is surrounded by spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery and forests of leafy cedar and gargantuan white pine.

Local resorts in the area offer lodging in beautiful handcrafted log cabins or camping.  These resorts are an ideal base for other attractions in the area including the Lewis and Clark Trail, Selway Falls, and an extensive trail system in the nearby National Forest lands.


Lehigh River

Section of river: Lehigh River (Upper Gorge, Lower Gorge)
Difficulty: Class 1-3
Length: 9-12 miles/14-19 KM
Season: Spring, Fall and Summer Dam Release weekends
Best rapids: Triple Drop, Mile-Long, Second Chance, Percolator, Hurry Left, White Falls

300px-Lehigh_RiverCarved by glaciers some 25 million years ago, the Lehigh River Gorge is home to the most spectacular whitewater in the mid-Atlantic region.

Nestled in the western Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh is a frisky, family-friendly river, sporting miles of Class III action.

Pristine wilderness scenery makes it hard to believe this whitewater gem is just a stone’s throw from Philadelphia, NYC, and the heavily populated mid-Atlantic corridor.

lehigh-riverThe Upper Gorge of the Lehigh, from White Haven to Rockport, features rapids such as Initiation, Triple Drop, No-Way, Second Chance and Scott’s Hole. The Lower Gorge, from Rockport to Jim Thorpe, includes alternating sections of white and calm water, with some of the most impressive views of the deepening gorge.

Section III of the Lehigh, from Jim Thorpe to Bowmanstown, is more mellow, with mainly Class I and II rapids, suitable for children as young as 5.  Day trips are most popular on the Lehigh, but two-day trips, and a 25-mile Marathon trip are also available.

Curling-Lehigh-River_thumbThe Lehigh has always been a favorite destination for visitors from NY, NJ, PA, MD, DE, CT, and neighboring states, but with the introduction of 11 new water release weekends, it’s now more popular than ever.

Beginning in 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers began to collect spring runoff behind its Francis Walter Dam, assuring a series of weekend releases (May through September) that have made the Lehigh a Whitewater Mecca.  The Lehigh River flows through Lehigh Gorge State Park, where it is flanked by a popular rails- to-trails bike route … a perfect second day activity for whitewater rafters.


Klinaklini River

Section of river: Klinaklini River, Upper
Difficulty: Class 3-5
Length: 100 miles; 162 KM; 7 days
Season: June – August
Best rapids: Nobody move, Little Drop of Horrors

klinaklini-campDescended for the first time in 1997 in conjunction with Men’s Journal Magazine, the Klinaklini is a river that a mere handful of people have ever rafted.  The river is so remote that native populations did not even inhabit the upper river due to inaccessibility.  This trip requires remarkable logistics to complete the journey as all equipment needs to be flown into the put-in, around an impassible canyon and back out of the river.

The upper Klinaklini River, below the put-in, is privately owned land and requires permission to utilize. Once under way, expect to see some dramatic class V whitewater a few miles from the start.  There are portage routes to the left and right but expect to spend the better part of your day portaging – unless you have a helicopter.  The upper river is a fast, narrow, and intimate corridor with many stretches of big, steep splashy whitewater.

klinaklini-peopleSeveral days into the trip rafters arrive at an impassible canyon and require a helicopter to transfer downstream or to the western arm of the river.  Here you can spend several glorious days exploring the Klinaklini Glacier, paddling among icebergs and hiking the lateral moraine.

The final descent of the Klinaklini depends a lot on temperature.  If the river is high it can be steady class V whitewater with few opportunities to stop.  If lower (cold days) boaters should expect continuous class III with one critical move around river wide ledge.  Eventually the trip finishes at sea level in Knights Inlet.  Remote as it is, do not leave your gear unsupervised, as this is one of the highest densities of grizzlies in British Columbia.


Hudson River

Section of river: Hudson River (The Gorge)
Difficulty: Class 2-4
Length: 15 miles/22 KM
Season: May – September
Best rapids: The Narrows, Giveny’s Rift, Greyhound Bus Stopper, Blue Ledges


hudson-river-gorge-602x400Rated one of America’s “Top 10″ whitewater stretches, the Hudson River Gorge near Indian Lake, New York is reminiscent of western-style rivers, complete with 800-foot granite cliffs and lush native forests.  Crystal clear water gushes over boulders and ledges, making a spectacular stretch of whitewater excitement.

Day trips on the Hudson start at the base of the Lake Abanakee Dam, on the Indian River tributary.  Daily releases from the dam turn the Indian River into a non-stop whitewater thriller … a terrific start to a 15 mile, 5-hour ride that ends in North River, NY.

gallery6_corinthgorgeAt the confluence of the Indian and Hudson Rivers, the feisty Class II-III rapids of the Indian give way to the powerful currents and Class IV-V whitewater of the main Hudson.  Rapids like Blue Ledges, The Narrows, Giveny’s Rift and Greyhound Bus Stopper highlight this explosive whitewater trip in one of the most pristine wilderness areas in America.


Green River – Desolation Canyon

Section of river: Green River,Desolation Canyon
Difficulty: Class 1-3
Length: 5-6 days
Season: May – August
Best rapids: Steer Ridge, Belknap, Three Fords, and Coal Creek rapids

yampa_river_37The Green River splits the 10,000 foot high Tavaputs Plateau and forms a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon. Over one million uninhabited acres surround this holdout of the Old West. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used these remote canyons one hundred years ago to escape the law. Today, we go just to escape.

Despite the name Desolation Canyon, the river surroundings offer green cottonwood groves, white sand beaches, and clear-water side streams. Your guide’s selection of nightly camps will make good use of these features. Off river, abandoned homesteads mark the end of a frontiersman’s dream, and prehistoric Indian petroglyphs the end of a civilization.

20_holidayexpeditionsBorn in 1987, the child of a side canyon flash flood, Belknap rapid is a formidable addition to the over 60 rapids on this 84-mile trip. With whitewater that builds in intensity each day, Desolation Canyon is an ideal place to occasionally swap your seat in the raft for a thirst quenching ride in an inflatable kayak.


Gauley River

Section of river: Summersville Dam – Swiss
Difficulty: Class 3-5
Season: April – September
Best rapids:

350px-IronRing2007BestThe Gauley River has whitewater rafting available in the spring, summer and fall. Spring and summer can bring unpredictable water levels and lots of challenges. Spring Gauley is generally run in rafts designed for big whitewater. With the snow melting and the river not crowded this trip is a rare treat for experienced rafters. Summer Gauley trips depend on the water levels; you could experience a duck on the Middle Gauley or paddle the Upper Gauley.


In the fall, the Gauley River features legendary whitewater. The Corps of Engineers release water from the Summersville Dam to turn the Gauley into one of the most talked about whitewater rafting rivers in West Virginia.

During these fall releases the upper section of the Gauley is an unforgettable trip full of class V+ whitewater, while the lower Gauley is a more adventurous trip for beginners wanting to experience the river.


Ganga – Bhagirathi River

gangaGanga River/Bhagirathi (India): India’s holiest river is also the country’s hub for river running.

Choose to camp out on large sandy river camp, Silver Sands, and do a 2-3 day river trip on a 36 km section or travel to Devprayag, where the two rivers, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet to form the Ganga and raft down a 70 km section to the pilgrim town of Rishikesh.


ganga1You can raft Class 3-4 rapids, fish for the Golden Mahseer, trek through local villages and camp out on secluded beaches, a must do for any traveler to India.


Firth River

Section of river: Firth River, Yukon
Difficulty: Class 3
Length: 100 miles/ 9 days; 162 KM
Season: June – August
Best rapids: Sheep Slot, Caribou Fence

firth_riverThe Firth River flows northeast from Alaska through the British Mountains and coastal plain of the Northern Yukon and drains into the Beaufort Sea southwest of Herschel Island.

The entire watershed of the Firth is contained in the boundaries of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and Ivvavik National Park in Canada. Together these organizations protect this wilderness and ensure the long-term preservation of the natural and cultural resources of the region.

firth_river2The Firth River is likely the oldest river in Canada and definitely one of the wildest. Bisecting this incredible national park, it is the summer home for 150,000 caribou of the west Porcupine herd.

An expedition down the Firth River offers a spectacular, educational and challenging Arctic wilderness adventure. The opportunity to view wildlife, as well as experience the natural and cultural features of the region add to the uniqueness and excitement of the trip.

firth_river_peopleThe Firth lies in an extremely remote and isolated region. To ensure the park remains wild there are no roads or even trails. Air access is controlled and regulated by permits. Fewer than 200 people visit the park each year, leaving the land almost entirely to its natural inhabitants. There are no settlements in the park. However, traditional subsistence hunting is still carried out seasonally by local native peoples. The interior of the park is dominated by the British Mountains, which rise to over 1800 meters along the Yukon-Alaska boundary. Since the National Geographic Society first descended the Firth in 1981, very little visitation has occurred.

The Firth is a relatively small volume river wending its way gracefully towards the coast. The river features many lively Class III and small Class IV rapids with technical obstacles such as ledges and chutes. Utilizing the rafts as vehicles of access allows boaters to cover reasonable ground by river and reach the best hiking regions for base camps.

Camps are plentiful in most of the river sections and range from gravel bars, grassy meadows to sandy beaches. The Firth corridor features barren mountain slopes and ridges that are accessible from riverside camps. Easily gained ridges afford excellent views of the river valley and British Mountains. The higher ridges and those further downstream offer views of the Beaufort coast and Herschel Island. At this latitude, above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set in the summer months and allows us endless opportunities for hikes, photography and fishing.

Zoar 2

Deerfield River

Deerfield_riverBeginner to advanced rafters alike enjoy rafting on the Deerfield River from April to October. From mellow half-day family float trips to Class III action on Zoar Gap and Class IV excitement on the Dryway, Deerfield River rafting has it all!

Two popular runs on the Deerfield include the Zoar Gap run from Fife Brook Dam to Buckland and the Dryway run from the #5 Dam in Monroe to the Fife Brook Dam.

Zoar Gap

Section of river: Deerfield River, Zoar Gap (Fife Brook Dam to Route 2 near Buckland)
Difficulty: Class 2-3
Length: 10 miles/16 KM
Season: Available April to October
Best rapids: Microwave, Freight Train, and Pinbal, Zoar Gap

Zoar 2The Zoar Gap is a popular run for families, office groups, churches and boy scouts. Children as young as 7 are allowed to run this section as the Class 2 – 3 whitewater rapids are ideal for beginner and intermediate rafters.  Rapids such as Microwave, Freight Train, and Pinball allow crews to hone their skills in preparation for the raging whitewater of Zoar Gap. Below the Gap, the river meanders through gentle drops to the take-out at the #4 Dam at Buckland.


Section of river: Deerfield River, Dryway (#5 Dam Monroe to Fife Brook Dam in Florida, Mass.)
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 4 miles/6.5 KM
Season: Available April to October
Best rapids: Factory Rapid, Dunbar Brook, Dragon’s Tooth and Labyrinth

west_river_3Experience Class 4 rafting excitement only 2 hours from Boston on the Deerfield River’s most exciting section, the Monroe Bridge Dryway.

Combining the rush of advanced whitewater, the beauty of the northern Berkshires and the camaraderie of a paddling adventure, a Dryway rafting trip is highlight for those seeking a wild whitewater experience.

zoar_gap_3From Factory Rapid past Dunbar Brook, Dragon’s Tooth and Labyrinth, the rolling whitewater keeps you on your toes while the rugged northern Berkshires provide a backdrop of exceptional natural beauty.  Participants must be comfortable in the water and able to paddle and work as a team.