Colorado River – Grand Canyon

Section of river: Grand Canyon from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek
Difficulty: The rapids in the Grand Canyon are rated on a 1-10 scale.  Flat water is 1 while more challenging rapids like Lava Falls or Crystal can be rated 10 at certain water levels.  A 10 rating in the canyon is roughly equivalent to a Class V in the standard river scale.
Length: 225 miles miles; 364 KM
Season: April – October
Best rapids: House Rock, Unkar, Horn Creek, Granite, Hermit, Crystal, Lava Falls

grand-canyon1The Grand Canyon is a true natural wonder – a place of profound beauty, history, geology, and ecology.  Each year, visitors from around the world gather at the Canyon’s rim to look down into its magnificent vastness, but there’s no better way to really see the Canyon than to travel through it, via the Colorado River.

Colorado River in Grand Canyon
Journeying through the Grand Canyon on a small non-motorized craft or a larger motorized pontoon boat allows travelers to observe subtle and dramatic changes as the canyon walls climb towards the sky with awesome beauty and untold years of geological history.  Terrific side hikes, crystalline creeks and waterfalls, Native American history, and breathtaking scenery enrich this amazing adventure.
colorado_floatMotorized and non-motorized whitewater rafting trips which launch from Lees Ferry and take-out at Diamond Creek vary greatly in length.

Motor trips usually take a minimum of 7 days to reach Diamond Creek and non-motorized trips can take as long as 18 days, but shorter trip options are often available for those who wish to hike in or out at Phantom Ranch.

cat-canyon-raftThe full canyon experience includes the glories of Marble Canyon, the mysteries of the Inner Gorge, terrific side hikes and Indian ruins, crystalline creeks and waterfalls, cactus gardens and whitewater galore. For nearly three hundred miles, the river has cut a chasm over a mile deep through a rainbow of ancient rock. Nowhere on earth is there a more complete or dramatic geologic storybook.

There are 47 rapids rated 5 or higher on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  Whitewater in the Canyon is rated on a scale of 1 – 10 (unlike most western rivers which use the I – VI scale).  A “1″ is a small riffle, and a “10″ is the most difficult rapid still considered runnable.

The two most noted of the Colorado’s rapids, Crystal and Lava Falls, are both rated a 10.  The intensity of all rapids naturally depends on the water level, so readings for low and high water levels may vary slightly.

Each day varies, but on average guests spend 3-6 hours per day on the boats, the rest of the time hiking and exploring side canyons, eating, or just relaxing in camp.  The easiest hikes are no more difficult than negotiating a few yards of beach sand or stepping over a few rocks.  Others may go for several miles over a rough trail, climb steeply up a hot hillside, require the use of both hands over awkward boulders and demand caution as you totter on a narrow trail above a steep cliff.  Guides are happy to help novices with hand and footholds and reassurance.


American River – North Fork

Section of river: Chamberlain Run
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 10 miles; 16 KM
Season: April- June
Best rapids: Chamberlain Falls, Zig-Zag, Achilles Heal, Bogus Thunder, Staircase

American-River-North-Fork.2The North Fork holds many distinctions among the three sections of the American River.  It is the most challenging fork of the American – rapid after Class IV rapid delivers a 5-mile run packed with nearly non-stop, white-knuckling whitewater, followed by a stretch of more gentle Class II-III rapids.

Intricate boulder gardens, rushing falls, and staircase drops promise intense paddling and plenty of adrenaline-inspiring thrills.

The North Fork of the American is the only fork of the American that is not dammed and its wild nature shows.  From April through June, snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada thunders with a vengeance through the towering canyon of the North Fork – a beautiful gorge with 2000-foot cliffs, blankets of green grass, colorful wildflowers and black oak and pine forests.  By late June, the river greatly changes character, becoming a calmer mountain stream – so don’t miss this excellent early-season whitewater run.

American-River-North-ForkThe Chamberlain Run section starts out plunging through a narrow gorge.  Big rapids follow in quick succession for most of the next five miles.  At moderate and high flows eddies become scarce and hard to catch, and boats must negotiate some big holes – especially at “Chamberlain Falls” and “Staircase” rapids.  Below “Staircase” the river eases a bit, but a couple of unnamed class III rapids may surprise the unwary boater.


American River – Middle Fork

Section of river: Oxbow Reservoir to Driver’s Flat
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 16 miles; 26 KM
Season: June – September
Best rapids: Cartwheel, First Flip, Kanaka Falls, Chunder, Tunnel Chute

The Middle Fork of the American River rushes through a beautiful, secluded canyon where a mix of pounding whitewater, Old West gold-mining lore, and the splendor of the Sierra Nevada foothills combine to offer an incomparable river trip. In the California Gold Rush of the mid 1800s, prospectors form around the globe flocked to the Middle Fork, seeking fortune in and around the river. Every tool and trick of the trade was employed as the miners tore into the ground with a vengeance, searching for the Mother Lode.

Today, the miners’ mark on the river is hardly noticed by rafters who plunge through the exciting waves and drops of the Middle Fork – with one major exception.  In an effort to divert the flow of the river in search of gold in its bed, miners blasted a tunnel through the side of a cliff, creating a new channel for the Middle Fork.  The dried-up riverbed, called Horseshoe Bend, was reported to be one of the “richest diggins” in the Gold Country – but that’s not all the miners produced with their explosion.  They also unknowingly created one of the most unique whitewater features anywhere – Tunnel Chute, a long, roiling rapid that concludes in a stretch of river flowing underground.

Besides the subterranean Tunnel Chute, numerous Class III-IV rapids crash down between calmer pools of glassy water on the Middle Fork, challenging rafters with constant technical maneuvering and aggressive paddling in both raging whitewater and flatter stretches.  The river even boasts a 35-foot, Class VI waterfall that we’ll portage.



Penobscot River

Section of river: Penobscot River (McKay Station to Nevers Corner)
Difficulty: Class 3-4; upper gorge Class 5
Length: 14 miles/22 KM
Season: Schedule release dates June to September
Best rapids: Exterminator, Staircase, the Cribworks, Nesowadnehunk Falls

Featuring exhilarating rapids and breathtaking the scenery the Penobscot is a true river of contrasts as it travels 14 miles through a series of steep drops and calmer stretches on your descent under the shadow of Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and the dominant centerpiece of Baxter State Park.

Penobscot_RiverRafting adventures start at Ripogenus Gorge where the Penobscot River is at its most turbulent, dramatically dropping over 70 feet per mile through a narrow granite walled canyon into the Class V Exterminator, Staircase, and Cribworks rapids.


Kennebec River

Section of river: Kennebec River (Harris Station to The Forks)
Difficulty: Class 3-4
Length: 12 miles/19 KM
Season: Schedule release dates May to October
Best rapids: Rock Garden, Three sisters, Alleyway, Magic Falls

Famous for its remote wilderness setting, BIG roller coaster waves and summer long flows, the Kennebec is easily the most popular river in the Northeast.

From its source at Moosehead Lake, the river carves its way through a deep, rock-walled gorge on a breathtaking 12 mile journey to The Forks. Legendary rapids like the 3 Sisters, Alleyway, and Magic Falls guarantee to keep your heart racing.

May and June are typically higher water months. Daily releases from Harris Station dam provide consistent flows in July and August  which are ideal for beginners or experienced rafters alike. Warm water and spectacular fall colors make September the ideal month to raft in Maine.

Pioneered in 1976, the Kennebec River winds and bucks through 12 miles of remote, wild and spectacular wilderness gorge before continuing on it’s lazy journey to the sea.  As the last river in the country to have a log drive on it, the Kennebec echoes with the history of native American travel, logging, shipbuilding, fishing and early explorers such as Benedict Arnold.

“A 90-foot deep crack in the earth filled with frothing waves and holes that can, for that moment, make all your trivial concerns disappear” is how one rafter, after a successful decent, described the Kennebec River Gorge.  To most it is just pure fun and excitement. To literally thousands of summer campers, youth groups, graduating seniors, scouting groups, family and friends the Kennebec River Gorge is a thrilling, unforgettable experience for all ages to share and enjoy.


Dead River

Section of river: Dead River (Grand Falls to Kennebec River)
Difficulty: Class 3-4
Length: 15 miles/24 KM
Season: Schedule release dates May to October
Best rapids: Humpty Dumpty, Mile Long Rapid, Elephant Rock, Poplar Hill Falls

photos_366A secluded run with pretty back-country scenery typical of Maine, the Dead River offers more continuous whitewater than any other river in the East.

In particular, high-water rafting on the Dead when dam releases may exceed 5,000 c.f.s., is guaranteed to be a wild and heart-thumping adventure. Poplar Hills Falls is the last rapid of the trip and biggest of the entire river.


Gunnison River

Section of river: Gunnison River (Chukar Trail put-in to North Fork of the Gunnison)
Difficulty: Class 1-4
Length: 14 miles; 22 KM; 1-2 days
Season: May through mid-September
Best rapids:

Gunnison-RiverThis 14-mile section of the Gunnison River offers fantastic whitewater as well as Gold Medal trout fishing.

The Gunnison runs through the 57,725-acre Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area which was created by Congress in 1999 and is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Gunnison Gorge is the downstream continuation of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Unlike the almost inaccessible depths of the Gunnison River canyon within the National Park, several good hiking trails provide access to the canyon within the Gorge. It is one of the most beautiful and accessible wild areas to be found in the United States.

Towering cliffs, quiet riverside glens, sparkling waterfalls, cascading rapids, winding trails with spectacular canyon views—these are just a few of the features enjoyed by visitors to the Gunnison Gorge.

gunnison_gorgeMuch of the attraction is due to the spectacular geologic formations, which document a geological history spanning a third of the age of the Earth itself. The scenery and geology of the Gunnison Gorge is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

Getting to the river requires an easy mile-long hike down a narrow trail; the boats and group gear are brought into the canyon on horseback the day before the trip. You will need to carry your own personal gear down the trail to the “put-in”. The hike is rewarded with dramatic canyon scenery, picturesque views and remarkable solitude. Only two groups of twelve people per day are permitted to raft the Gunnison Gorge, assuring you a quality wilderness experience.

The Gunnison River is near Delta and Montrose in western Colorado, just south of Grand Junction.


Housatonic River

The Housatonic River is ideal for intermediate to advanced rafters and offers a series of Class 4 rapids and some of the most beautiful scenery in the state.


Section of river: Bulls Bridge near Kent to Route 7 (upstream of Gaylordsville Bridge)
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 2.5 miles/4 KM
Season: Available March to June and with hydroelectric releases
Best rapids: Staircase, Flume, S-Turn, Pencil Sharpener, Powerhouse


Housatonic means “River Beyond the Mountains” in the local Native dialect. The headwaters of the Housatonic are in the distant Bershires of western Massachusetts. The river flows southerly through the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut. The area is rich in Colonial history and covered bridges span the river. In fact, the put-in for the Bulls Bridge run is directly under a covered bridge just downstream of a class V cataract. Immediately downstream, rafters enter the Flume where the water races around a sharp bend and over a 7-foot ledge, emerging as froth and waves below. S-Turn is next with a tight move over a ledge which is immediately followed by Pencil Sharpener where grabby holes reach for the boat. Below, easier rapids lead to Powerhouse hole and the takeout rapid.


Rogue River

rogue-riverSometimes, floating on the Rogue River is like being in a National Geographic Special. Otter, deer, bear, heron, salmon and osprey are abundant. The whitewater is special too, with many Class II and III rapids suitable for oar rafts, paddle rafts or inflatable kayaks.

The unspoiled landscape of the Lower Rogue River is a remote wilderness area.  The best rapids include Graves Creek Falls, Russian, Tyee, Upper and Lower Black Bar, Horseshoe, and the infamous Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar.

Add incredible sidestreams with some of the best swimming holes anywhere, picturesque campsites surrounded by the diverse flora and fauna of Southern Oregon’s Cascade Range, interesting human history including Zane Grey’s cabin, and water that is perfect for swimming and you end up with one of the best family rafting vacations in North America.

Rogue river rafting trips begin and end in Grants Pass, Oregon a convenient drive from California.


Black River

Section of river: Black River (Canyon)
Difficulty: Class 4
Length: 11 miles/16 KM
Season: May – September
Best rapids: Knife’s Edge, Rocket Ride, Cruncher, Hole Brothers

250px-BlackriverwatertownnyThe Black River canyon offers an unusual blend of reliably high water and warm weather rafting.  While many rivers turn mellow during the normally drier summer months, the Black runs full and fast, thanks to daily dam releases and the unique topography of this special river.


Rather than widening and slowing like most low-land rivers, the Black finds itself constricted between narrow canyon walls, and dropping over steep ledges and monstrous boulders in a last gasp of excitement before melting quietly into Lake Ontario near Dexter, New York.  Leaving the put-in point in Watertown, the river quickly rounds a bend and drops out of sight into an isolated canyon punctuated by dozens of waterfalls dripping into the main channel.

black-river-rift2_mThe Black River is a photographer’s delight, and a whitewater enthusiast’s paradise.  Hole Brothers, near the beginning of the trip, is a picture-perfect surfing wave where rafters can hone their paddling skills while drenching their raft-mates.  Rapids like Rocket Ride, Knife’s Edge and Cruncher are typical of the Class IV drops that make the Black River one of the East Coast’s finest whitewater runs.  Spring runoff in May can sometimes raise the Black to Class V or higher, while flows from June to October offer solid Class IV whitewater excitement.