Best White Water Rafting Locations in the U.S.!

The rushing waters of the United States are teeming not just with flora and fauna, but possibilities for adventure. White water rafting has become a favorite outdoor pastime for millions of Americans, and no matter which class of rapids you prefer - from the calm waters of Class I to the truly dangerous challenges of Classes V and VI-there's most likely a fantastic rafting spot near you. Check our list-in no particular order-of eight of the very best rafting spots in the United States.

1. Nenana River Gorge

The rugged beauty of Alaska's Denali National Park provides the perfect setting for white water adventure on this river. The Nenana runs along the eastern edge of the park, and offers a variety of challenge levels along its length, making it an attractive choice for beginners and families as well as seasoned river dogs looking to tackle Class IV waters.

Challenge Rating: Class I through Class IV
When to Visit: Since the Nenana is in Alaska, you'll probably want to save your rafting adventures for spring or summer.

2. American River

Located near Sacramento, California, this river boasts three forks, three levels of difficulty, and one singular experience for lovers of white water. Those not in the mood for taking on the rushing river can enjoy the slower sections, which are ideal for tubing and sightseeing.

Challenge Rating: Classes II, III, and IV
When to Visit: Year 'round, although winter rafting carries special considerations.

3. Rogue River

From its origin in Crater Lake to its terminus in the Pacific Ocean, Oregon's Rogue River stretches for 215 glorious, gorgeous miles. Surrounded by the Wild Rogue Wilderness, this river presents rafters with a range of experiences, from serenely scenic floats to challenging Class II, IV, and V rapids in the 34-mile Wilds section.

Challenge Rating: Classes II through V
When to Visit: Varies. Permits required for the Wild section of the river, depending on the season.

4. Colorado River/Grand Canyon

No list of white water rafting adventures is complete without a mention of the mighty Colorado. Rushing through seven states, and eleven national parks, as it travels its 1,450-mile course, the Colorado river is a popular white water rafting destination at several points along its length. One of the most popular, and most challenging, is the Grand Canyon stretch.

Challenge Rating: Classes I through V
When to Visit: Varies. Permits are absolutely required for the Grand Canyon section of the river, and you'll most likely need to plan a year or two in advance to book a trip through the landmark. If you're planning your own, unguided trip, you'll need certification and an entry into the weighted lottery to land a permit.

5. Jackson Hole

If you're looking for the ideal balance of easy-does-it float and scenic rafting with serious white water adventure, Jackson Hole might be the perfect rafting spot for you. There's plenty of natural wonders to take in while drifting through Grand Teton National Park, and when it's time to strap in for adventure, a trip to the Snake River presents plenty of rugged excitement-including the famous Big Kahuna rapids.

Challenge Rating: Classes I through III
When to Visit: Year 'round, although winter brings the usual special considerations. Permits are required in Grand Teton National Park.

6. Youghiogheny River

Coursing through Pennsylvania's Ohiopyle State Park, the Youghiogheny (often abbreviated to "the Yough") has something for every rafter to enjoy the lower and upper branches of the Yough offer moderate and challenging waters, while the middle Yough keeps things light, with an emphasis on scenic floats and family-friendly excursions.

Challenge Rating: Classes I through V+. The lower branch of the Yough can be extremely challenging.
When to Visit: March through October.

7. Cumberland River (Big South Fork)

Connecting Kentucky and Tennessee, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River offers up a range of white water adventures for the experienced rafter and newbies alike. You won't want to miss The Ell, Washing Machine, and Double Falls rapids.

Challenge Rating: Classes II through IV. Many of the rapids along the Cumberland are quite technical, so you should check both river levels and descriptions before venturing out.
When to Visit: Varies. Some streams are seasonal, while other stretches of the river are suitable for year 'round rafting.

8. Rio Grande

Another must-ride river of the American wilderness, the Rio Grande forms the U.S. border with Mexico for a stretch of its 1,800 mile journey from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. As it touches multiple states and offers a wide range of float and rapid-rafting opportunities, the Rio Grande is ideal for both day trips and longer journeys that allow for greater exploration.

Challenge Rating: Classes I through V.
When to Visit: Varies.

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