Whitewater rafting is a thrilling outdoor activity where you paddle through turbulent rapids in an inflatable boat, trying your best to not bail into the water. Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself on a new run or want to try the adrenaline pumping activity for the first time, there are many rapids around the world just waiting for you to launch your raft.
While whitewater rafting isn’t 100% safe (no sport is), it’s generally not considered dangerous. Fatalities have averaged 1 per year since the beginning of the industry in 1978 and minor injuries aren’t overly common. You’re significantly more likely to have a fun adventure than to be injured while on the water, so white water rafting is fairly safe. There are many rivers around the world offering up trips which will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime, so put on your life jacket and strap on your helmet, because it’s time to get your paddle wet at one of the 10 best places to go whitewater rafting!
Futaleufu River, Chile
The Futaleufu River cascades from glacier-fed lakes high in the Andes Mountains. The aqua water is calm enough in many areas for novice rafters. However, experienced rafters will feel right at home in the long stretches of rough rapids and Class IV drops. The area also features permanent river camps with hot tubs, beds and warm showers – a perfect place to rest if you’re solo or with your family. If you are looking to explore out of the water, try the rock climbing or horseback riding that is available nearby.
White Nile, Uganda
The White Nile River, which is a tributary of the Nile River, weaves its way through Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. However, the best spot for whitewater rafting is at Jinja, Uganda where the river exits Lake Victoria. Once the river spills out of the placid lake, it explodes into Class II – V rapids. If you’re looking to go with a guide company, check out White Nile Rafting, which is owned by and managed by the first woman crowned an African Champion in Freestyle Kayaking and Canoe Slalom in South Africa in 2009.
Pacuare River, Costa Rica
The Pacuare River in Costa Rica is enveloped in a lush tropical rainforest. Winding 67 miles through three sections, the river has rapids classed from III to IV. Along the journey to the Caribbean, people have the opportunity to view the area’s resident jaguars, ocelots, monkeys, and exotic birds, resulting in double the excitement on this whitewater rafting route.
Zambezi River, Zimbabwe
The Zambezi River at Victoria Falls provides an adrenaline packed, going-to-get-soaked adventure for experienced rafters. Nearly half of the rapids along the river are graded as Class IV. Aside from the dramatic drops and massive swells, the river offers rafters a chance to see crocodiles and hippopotamuses up close.
Ottawa River, Canada
The Ottawa River, which divides Quebec and Ontario, is a popular top destination in the Great White North for rafters of all skill levels. The lukewarm water in summer and calm stretches are perfect for all ages of budding adventurers while faster sections will give even the most advanced rapid rider a thrill. If you’ve got the time and want to learn how to be a better whitewater kayaker, sign up for a one or two day intensive program at the Ottawa Kayak School.
Colorado River, Grand Canyon
The Colorado River, which winds 226 miles through Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, is one of the quintessential rafting destinations in the country. When you aren’t battling the powerful Class IV to V rapids, the calm stretches provide a unique view of the canyon. The journey also offers plenty of adventure on dry land with ancient Indian ruins, miles of hiking trails, and campsites located on beautiful beaches.
Magpie River, Canada
Rafting on the Magpie River in Quebec Canada steadily increases in difficulty throughout the journey. The first rapids, near Magpie Lake, are gentle enough for novice rafters while the Class V rapids at Magpie Falls will challenge even those with more experience. At night, camping along the river provides a spectacular view of the Northern Lights, so if you’ve got the time, plan for a campout.
Ganges River, India
The sacred Ganges River originates high in the Western Himalayas and is home to the best river rafting in India (and all of Asia!). The Class IV to V rapids are best experienced between October and June after the monsoon season when the water is high and tumultuous. During the stretches of calm water, rafters can swim in the holy river and see the Hindu temples that grace the shore. Whether you’re new to rafting or a pro, this is a whitewater trip perfectly suited for you, so pick up your paddle and head out on your next adventure.
Salmon River’s Middle Fork, Idaho
The Middle Fork tributary of the Idaho’s Salmon River is one of North America’s iconic whitewater rafting experiences. Over the course of its 105-mile journey, the river offers up 100 rapids ranging from Class III to IV and drops 3000 feet in elevation. Paddle your way through the spruce forest and rugged landscape, where you’re likely to see moose and bears along the shore.
North Johnstone River, Australia
The North Johnstone River in Queensland, Australia serves up Class IV and V rapids which get their force from the area’s heavy rainfalls. The river, which winds through volcanic gorges and untouched rainforests, is only accessible by helicopter, but it’s well worth the price if you’re looking for the best whitewater rafting.
Penobscot River, Maine
Raft through the breathtaking Katahdin wilderness along Maine’s wildest river on the edge of Baxter State Park, which boasts Class V rapids. Expect a wild ride, so if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to go with a tour company such as Penobscot Adventures in order to stay safe and get a crash course in paddling. There’s definitely a chance of involuntary swimming along this epic 109-mile long river, but it’s one of the best places to go whitewater rafting in the country.