Whitewater rafting is a perfect way to combine a love for the outdoors and the rushing thrill of taking on nature’s elements. There is nothing quite like driving through a rushing whorl of water as the spray hits your face. Bouncing up and down in your seat, you feel you are only moments away from disaster.

Whitewater rafting is actually one of the safest adventure sports there is, with national safety standards followed by every major outfitter in North America.

Many states and provinces in North America offer several whitewater rafting experiences on various river routes. Beginners can try out smaller rapids, in the Class 1-3 range, while thrill seekers can try out those rated Class 4-5. If you are an ultra adventure seeker, however, you might be out of luck. North America does have a few of the most dangerous Class 6 rapids. They are though, seldom used by even the most hardy rafting enthusiasts and no outfitters offer tours on them.

These are some of the best rated rafting locations in North America and all contain sections of Class 5 rapids:


Kipawa River, Quebec

A pulsating, intermediate 16 km run, from Lake Kipawa down to Lake Temiscaming with 18 big rapids and a 90 foot waterfall.

Nahatlatch River, British Columbia

This river contains the most continuous Class 3 plus rapids in Canada, around 40. Best done in the spring when the water is at its highest.

Kicking Horse River, British Columbia

This river runs from glacial and snow melt water and offers a great experience all year round, is at its highest in Spring. It boasts many Class 5 rapids during its 35km of upper, middle and lower canyons complimented with stunning scenery.


Gauley River, West Virginia

The river is 26 miles and includes 100 rapids of high adrenaline whitewater rafting excitement. Best experienced in September and October when the river is swelled by water released from the dam. Can be completed in 1 or 2 days.

Arkansas River, Colorado

Most popular location in the Rockies due to the variety of rapids. Contains a 10 mile stretch of numerous Class 4 & 5 rapids, known as the Royal George Canyon.

Salmon River, Idaho

Offers many options for tour lengths and class of rapids. The highlight is the Middle Fork section, a raging alpine river to a stunning desert canyon. This section is over 105 miles and drops 3,000 feet along its journey and contains many Class 5 rapids.

Colorado River, Arizona

The Colorado River passes through the Grand Canyon in Arizona, providing 226 miles of whitewater thrills and spills across Classes 1 to 5 rapids, amongst stunning scenery.

Chattooga River, South Carolina

Section IV of the river is the highlight. It only runs about 7 miles but has many Class 5 rapids, one after another as well several falls, that will test even the most experienced rafters.

If you are truly looking to defy death, there are several other locations in the world that do offer incredibly hazardous raft rides. Africa, for example, offers several tours of Class VI rivers. Here the adrenaline junky must not only contend with deadly rapids but also wildlife hazards, such as crocodiles and hippopotamuses, even in the “safer” areas.

For those who wish to enjoy a safe rafting experience, there are many options for duration of rafting trips and costs. The well established whitewater rafting outfitters all employ highly trained guides. They supply the best quality equipment, both personal safety and rafting equipment.

The guides know their routes and rapids like they know their houses, and can be counted on to take care of you to complete the tour safely. They are also high trained, in the event of an emergency, should one come up.

There are a few standard items that you should wear during your whitewater rafting experience. Proper shoes must be worn to the site. These shoes must fit well and be able to get wet and dry quickly.

Whitewater rafters should also keep in mind the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays and bring along sun glasses and sunscreen. More often than not, these items will be available at the outfitter’s store should you forget. However, they will be quite a bit more pricy than if you had remembered them yourself.

Whitewater rafting is a perfect way to satisfy your inner thrill seeker and get you in touch with areas of nature, that might otherwise be inaccessible. It makes you feel alive, doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone and away from the worries of everyday life. If you are on a family holiday, try to book in advance and find out the recommended age limits and any other conditions, for their tours. Whitewater rafting is usually not recommended for children under eight years of age, for safety reasons.