What is white water rafting?
Rafting and white water rafting are recreational outdoor activities which use an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other body of water. This is often done on whitewater or different degrees of rough-water, and can be considered an extreme sport depending on the location’s degree of difficulty.
It’s called white-water due to the effect caused by rapids. When a river’s gradient increases enough to disturb its smooth flow and create turbulence, the frothy water appears white. The term is also used loosely to refer to less-turbulent but still agitated flows.
Around the world, there are many incredible rivers that offer adventurers and thrill seekers the ability to white water raft down wild rivers past stunning landscapes and exotic views. While rivers range in terms of rapids and speeds, there are plenty of rivers around the world that provide excellent rafting for beginners, amateurs, and experts alike.
Whether you are looking to experience an adrenaline rush for a day or experience a country in a completely different way, there are many different regions across all continents that offer adventurers the chance to take to the river in a raft and experience travel in a new and exciting way.
Check out the following twelve places to raft around the world that offer excellent rapids, conditions, and views for any level of rafter.
1. Colorado River, Arizona, USA
As one of the longest rivers in North America, the Colorado River runs for 226 miles through three states, including Colorado, Utah, and finally Arizona. Running through the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River is sacred to the locals from the area. With many rapids located along different parts of the river, the white water rafting in the area is suitable for beginners, amateurs, and experts. The rapids in the river can be rated as high as Class IV, depending on the season. Rafting in the Colorado River also offers adventurers the chance to explore the Canyon in a different way, hike nearby trails, sleep in campsites, and explore the ancient ruins of the Native tribes.
2. Nahatlatch River, British Columbia, Canada
While Canada offers up plenty of rivers to experience white water rafting in, the Nahatlatch River located in the western province of British Columbia is one of the best. Known for its green forests, sky high mountains, and wide range of wildlife, the Nahatlatch River is rated as a Class IV river. The Nahatlatch River offers rafters the chance to experience 25 different rapids, which range in size and water flow. Perfect for beginner, amateur, and professional rafters, the Nahatlatch River is an excellent rafting experience for those looking to see unique mammals like moose, bears, and beavers.
3. Middle Fork, Salmon River, Idaho, USA
Running over 100 miles through the state of Idaho, the Middle Fork in the Salmon River is one of the best rivers in America to experience white water rafting. With over 100 rapids and many elevated drops, the Middle Fork offers rafters the chance to pass by rolling hills, thick forests, and rugged landscapes. Oftentimes, rafters report seeing wildlife along the shores of the river including bears, beavers, deer, moose, and plenty of birds. The rapids on the Middle Fork are often classified as Class IV, however it depends on the season, where springtime and fall brings more rain, ensuring the rapids are faster and wilder.
4. Rio Upano, Ecuador
Known as a jungle river, the Rio Upano river offers visitors the chance to raft past thick jungles, see plenty of wildlife, and experience Ecuador in a thrilling way. The Rio Upano river often changes during times of heavy rainfall and is often classified as a Class III or IV in terms of the rapids. The speed and rapids of the river change throughout the season and heavier rain can often cause larger swells and higher drops. Most excitingly, the landscapes and river changes throughout the rafting experience, making this white water rafting excursion incredibly unique.
5. Futaleufa River, Chile
With gorgeous blue waters and incredible scenery on the way down, the Futaleufu River can be found at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Chile. The Futaleufu River is comprised of crystal clear waters high in calcium that come from glaciers located high up in the Andes mountains. The river serves up exciting Class IV rapids and is perfect for any kind of rafters, however it is best if you have some rafting experience and consider yourself an amateur or higher. Taking you past plenty of stunning natural landscapes, the Futaleufu River offers up other exciting activities for adventurers including climbing, hiking, and horse riding.
6. North Johnstone River, Australia
Only accessible by helicopter and slightly more expensive than other white water rafting adventures around the world, rafting in the North Johnstone River provides rafters with Class IV and V rapids and stunning views of rainforests, jungle areas, and volcanic gorges. Located in Queensland, the North Johnstone River gets plenty of rainfall year round and the river is constantly fuelled by the heavy rains. Suitable for amateur and professional rafters, the North Johnstone River can be a great experience for a beginner since staff and professionals are highly trained.
7. Balsa River, Costa Rica
Conveniently located just outside of one of the most popular tourist cities in Costa Rica, the Balsa River is the perfect place to learn how to white water raft or to simply try it for the first time. With Class II or III rapids depending on the season, the Balsa River takes rafters through thick jungles, down tiny drops, along slow rapids, and past incredible wildlife. The Balsa River is located in the town of Arenal, where one of the most impressive and active volcanoes in all of Central America lies. Since the Balsa River is generally considered for beginner and fun rafters, the staff are highly trained and ensure a safe and great experience always.
8. Ganges River, India
The Ganges River, flowing through the Western Himalayas, is one of the most sacred rivers in the entire world. While parts of the Ganges are used by cities and villages as a source of both life and death, other parts of it are used for recreational purposes. Home to Class IV and V rapids between the months of October and June, white water rafting in the Ganges is suitable for both beginner and expert rafters. With stunning views of the mountain range, occasional glimpses of shrines and Hindu temples on the shores, and spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes, white water rafting on the Ganges River is one of the most memorable places to cruise the rapids. During calmer waters, it is even possible to take a dip in the sacred river.
9. Coruh River, Turkey
Flowing from the northeast of Turkey and heading into the mountainous regions of Georgia, the Coruh River offers up Turkey’s best white water rafting. With Class III and IV rapids, the Coruh River is perfectly suited for beginner, amateur, and professional rafters. Rafting past rugged landscapes, thick forests, and mountainous regions, the rafting offers visitors a chance to experience Turkey in a unique way. Rafter oftentimes report seeing many animals along the banks of the river including beavers, birds, and other mammals.
10. Zambezi River, Zimbabwe/Zambia
Offering up some of the most stunning views in the world, the Zambezi River runs to one of the most stunning and tallest waterfalls in the world, the powerful Victoria Falls. Located on the border of both Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Zambezi River offers Class IV rapids to beginner, amateur, and expert rafters. Offering phenomenal views from below of the powerful Victoria Falls, rafting in the Zambezi River also allows close up views of hippopotamus, crocodiles, fish, and birds. Depending on the season, the rains can cause big swells and intense drops that will fulfill your desire for a thrilling adventure.
11. Pacuare River, Costa Rica
One of the most visited countries in the world by North American tourists, Costa Rica offers visitors the chance to experience plenty of outdoor adventures including surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, zip lining, white water rafting, and horse riding. Perhaps the best place in Central America to experience white water rafting, the Pacuare River offers beginner and amateur rafters the chance to raft through Class III and IV rapids. While the rapids may not be as intense as many others on the list, the surroundings along the beautiful Caribbean coast of Costa Rica make up for it. Rafters report seeing plenty of monkeys, birds, jaguars, and sloths.
12. Jasper River, British Columbia, Canada
Located in the stunning Jasper National Park, the Jasper River offers first time rafters and those simply looking to try the experience or have fun the chance to raft over Class II or III rapids. In the summertime, the rapids tend to be slower at Jasper and offer rafters a chance to hit a few rapids, cruise down a couple of drops, and ultimately enjoy their surroundings. With crystal clear waters, stunning forestry, and plenty of wildlife, Jasper is the perfect place to learn how to raft or simply try rafting for the first time. With many safety rules, the trained professionals at Jasper always ensure that the rafting experience is safe and enjoyable. Rafters report seeing bears, cougars, lynx, plenty of birds, and other mammals like beavers during their rafting experiences.
Where else would you recommend white water rafting? Feel free to comment below.