10 Best Places for Whitewater Rafting in the United States

Last Updated on April 01, 2023 by Nikki Jain

While it is good to sometimes just sit back and enjoy the great outdoors in a slow and calm environment, you have to get out there and take life by the horns to truly appreciate it. There are a lot of places in our backyard to go experience the turbulent and thrilling activities of whitewater river rafting. It has started trending more lately, as more people are drawn to the challenge and excitement of being one with nature, overcoming obstacles with your closest companions. Here are our picks for the 10 most thrilling and rewarding places to go whitewater rafting in America!

Best Places for Whitewater Rafting in the USA

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1: Salmon River, Idaho

Salmon River, Idaho
This river provides the best variety for whitewater rafters new and old. You can take the Middle Fork for both fast-paced action around the alpine rapids and a thrilling conclusion that sends you through the amazing desert canyons. This adventure takes at least five days for experienced rafters. There are shorter, less advanced rapids available among the Salmon River, as well.

Address: Salmon River, Idaho

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2: Colorado River, Grand Canyon

Colorado River, Grand Canyon
Flickr/Wesley Fryer
If you’re looking for a challenge, there is plenty to be found along the 226 mile Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The experience is like no other, the canyons rich with history as they are surprises. You should reserve a full vacation experience of both on-land and off adventures, as there are tons of little caves and secrets to explore.

Address: Colorado River Discovery, 130 6th Avenue, Page, AZ 86040

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3: Gauley River, West Virginia

Gauley River, West Virginia
Flickr/Michael Blow
This whitewater rapid location is a time-exclusive event that only happens for six weekends in September and October. This is because the nearby Summersville lake is leveed and must be regulated to prevent overflowing, and when this happens the Gauley River is treated with a flush of fresh water that cascades down canyons and between lush fall foliage. Rafters return to this amazing experience every year to get a taste of the best sights and sounds of the great outdoors.

Address: Gauley River, WV

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4: Tuolumne River, California

Tuolumne River, California
Flickr/Zachary Collier
Yosemite National Park gives birth to this beautiful river, where it falls down into Cherry Creek, a whitewater river rafter’s dream. This section of river is no walk in the park, it will drain you physically and emotionally if you aren’t an experienced rafter. For those who may not be up to snuff on their rafting abilities, the Main Tuolumne section that runs for 18 miles of great natural landscapes.

Address: Sierra Mac River Trips, 27890 CA-120, Groveland, CA 95321

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5: Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana
Flickr/Ron B
Another popular pick for whitewater rafters, there is a great selection of adventures to fit various timetables, from 6-10hrs to three day trips. Glacier National Park can also accommodate beginners who have never rafted before, so you can start out on floating tour boats that don’t expose you to the elements just yet. Then, maybe after, you can start trying the real thing out.

Address: West Glacier, MT 59936

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6: Delaware River, New York

Delaware River, New York
Flickr/S S.
It may seem crazy to most people who visit New York on vacation, but there is actually a great stretch of outdoor travels that happen along the great Delaware River, which is the largest river in the Northeast. The river itself is great for beginner to medium-level rafting, with plenty of lush scenery and opportunities for camping to truly escape the urban jungle of the city life.

Address: 778 Frenchtown Rd, Milford, NJ 08848

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7: Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania

Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania
Flickr/taufiq hussien
This is the perfect river for your spring, summer, or fall adventures if you are looking for a place to try rafting out on the eastern side of the country. It stretches for 74 miles and provides plenty of opportunities to have fun as newcomers and as advanced whitewater rafters.

Address: Youghiogheny River, PA

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8: American River, California

American River, California
Flickr/Renee V
You can’t mention whitewater rafting in America without talking about the American River. This iconic river is the most popular place for river rafting because it has just enough challenge to make things exciting and interesting, but not too much to make things appear daunting or out of reach. The South Fork is where you’ll fall in love with whitewater rafting and where generations continue to turn out.

Address: 11257 S Bridge St, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

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9: Big Bend/ Rio Grande, Texas

Big Bend/ Rio Grande, Texas
This collection of canyons and beautiful wildlife is like visiting different corners of the country all in one place. It really is quite an experience for each canyon’s section of the Rio Grande. You have the Santa Elena, Boquillas, Colorado, and Mariscal, with each one offering its own set of amazing sights. Nothing here is too difficult to traverse, so this is something that the whole family can enjoy together.

Address: Big Bend National Park, Texas

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10: Dead River, Maine

Dead River, Maine
This is the shining pride of Maine’s whitewater rafting community. This river is pure, unadulterated fun for 15 miles of non-stop action. This river will challenge your resolve and reinvigorate your thirst for adventure. Some say that The Dead makes them feel more alive because they never know what to expect. Even for repeat visitors, they could get a completely different look each time because the dam releases in the river aren’t as frequent as some rivers and they are spread out over May until October.

Address: Dead River, ME

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