White Water Rafting: Your ultimate guide
Emerald green streams, rousing waves, and picturesque riverscapes – the outdoor activity of white water rafting is ideal for all nature lovers and (soon-to-be) adventure sports enthusiasts. Rafting requires coordination and team spirit – those who have already sat in a rubber raft with their companions and fought against the primal force of the water, will certainly not forget this experience any time soon. This is why white water rafting tours are becoming more and more popular, not only with families and groups of friends but also for team building events and stag and hen parties.
The expert team at CheckYeti has gathered everything you need to know about white water rafting, which requirements there are and where the best places to go white water rafting are located.
What is white water rafting?
Fun, action and impressive landscapes are at the centre of every white water rafting tour
Rafting is a white water sports activity that has grown in popularity, especially in Central Europe, since the 80s. While in the beginning, rafts were made of wood, the boats used today come in the form of a rubber dinghy and are used to traverse along white water rivers and other bodies of water. Depending on the course of the river, white water rapids of varying degrees of difficulty are mastered along the way. Rafts are made of several layers of robust rubber to allow them to come into contact with stones and rocks without breaking. The size of the boats varies between 3 and 6 m, and, dependent on their length, they are suited for different group sizes. Typically, boats can hold between 2 and 20 people.
The participants of the white water rafting tour steer the boat using single-bladed paddles, while experienced and certified rafting guides accompany them and offer support where needed. Rafting is indeed a sociable outdoor activity that combines fun, action and sports all in one, with the added bonus of it taking place in striking natural landscapes. Roaring white water rivers, picturesque mountain panoramas and thrilling rapids turn every rafting tour into a true adventure.
White water rafting, water rafting or river rafting – one sport, many terms
Turbulent rapids cause air to be entrained in the water, causing it to be bubbly or frothy – hence the white appearance of the water
There are several ways of referring to this sport: from white water rafting to water rafting or river rafting. Generally speaking, they all refer to the same type of activity. While in the US and in other countries, people sometimes use the term wild water rafting, the terms white water rafting and water rafting are more common, especially in the UK. Furthermore, people in Switzerland, often speak of river rafting.
It is important to differentiate between rafting on natural bodies of water and rafting on man-made bodies of water. Natural bodies of water are, for example, rivers and streams which, if they have a significant number of rapids, are considered to be white water. White water gets its name from the fact that when there is sufficient downhill gradient and a significant number of narrow straits, the water cannot flow evenly. This causes the water to absorb air and the frothing water appears white.
When it comes to man-made bodies of water, rafting can be undertaken in specifically designed white water arenas. In these white water installations, water is pumped into white water canals which resemble natural rapids. The force of the water and therefore the level of difficulty can be set individually, which means that these arenas are ideal for training and for competitions.
Who can go rafting?
Children aged 5 years and upwards are welcome on board a white water rafting adventure
Since very little prior experience is needed, white water rafting is ideal for families and groups with different physical abilities. Depending on the difficulty level of the river, participants should have basic swimming skills. In addition, it is required that all people who want to join a white water rafting tour are in overall good health.
Most rafting providers offer rafting tours at various difficulty levels (easy – medium – challenging). That way, anyone, from beginner to adrenaline junkie, can find the most appropriate white water rafting tour which suits their wishes and experience. Even families with small children will find suitable rafting tours in most regions. In general, children aged 5 and upwards are allowed on board easier rafting tours with calmer straits.
Rafting is a perfect group activity – the longest rafts can hold up to 20 people, making it easy for large groups of friends to plunge into their white water rafting adventure together. One of the things that makes white water rafting so much fun is the fact that it really requires people to work together. As such, the sport has, over the years, become a popular choice for team building events for pupils and for work colleagues. The challenge of white water rafting really binds people together, allowing them to make unique and unforgettable memories of their manoeuvres through wild rapids together.
Nonetheless, those who are seeking a white water rafting adventure by themselves or in pairs will also find the right offer with most providers. Beside offers for entire groups, most rafting centres typically offer open tours as well, which, depending on the size of the boat, different numbers of people can take part in. Most white water rafting tours start with a minimum of 4 participants.
Since white water rafting has different levels of difficulty, most rafting centres offer a broad selection of different types of tours for every occasion. These can be upgraded by booking additional services such as barbecues. Because of these special offers, white water rafting tours are becoming increasingly popular activities for stag or hen parties. Some providers even incorporate fun games and costumes into these types of rafting tours. After an adventurous afternoon on the white water river, the bride/groom-to-be can enjoy a relaxed evening with their friends by having a barbecue or a few drinks at the base camp’s own bar.
What’s the best time to go rafting?
The best time to go rafting varies, depending on where you go. In the UK, for example, white water rafting is an all-year-round activity. Naturally, the temperature of the water will be colder in winter than in summer, but that doesn’t stop rafting enthusiasts from getting their fix of white water adventures. For those seeking to go rafting on the European mainland, the best time to go is from the beginning of April to the end of October. As soon as the snow caps in the Alps begin to melt and the rivers are filled with enough water, white water rafters will find the best conditions. Even after longer periods of rain, the conditions for white water rafting are ideal.
In more southern regions, the white water rafting season starts a few weeks earlier than in the alpine regions. However, in places like Austria or Switzerland, rafting tours can be booked in autumn as well. In any case, it is important to keep in mind that during the hot summer months and after long periods without rain, it can happen that rivers don’t have enough water for rafting tours to take place.
What are the requirements to go rafting?
A certain amount of strength and stamina are needed to go white water rafting
White water rafting is a sport that novices can easily partake in. At the beginning of every white water rafting tour, the rafting guide briefs all the participants and explains what the course of events will look like. Most providers offer tours for beginners and the more advanced so that everyone can find their ideal rafting adventure.
Depending on which river or which rafting route is selected, different physical abilities are prescribed. All participants of a white water rafting tour should be in overall good health and possess a basic level of fitness, as they are always in motion. White water rafting requires people to use, in particular, their arm, upper body and leg muscles, in order to carry or steer the raft or to keep their own body in position while inside the raft. Adults who weigh more than 125kg/275lbs should let the provider know beforehand, as this can result in the maximum amount of people per raft being reduced.
Even though most white water rafting tours require participants to also have good swimming skills, children who are not yet the most confident swimmers can still join in on some easier sections of certain tours. In any case, wearing a helmet and a life jacket is mandatory when rafting, as it ensures that children and other people who may not be the best of swimmers are able to participate. It is important, however, that young children are accompanied by a more experienced and physically strong adult as well as by a professional guide who can keep the raft under control at all times. Most providers allow children from the age of 5 to join a rafting tour, given the aforementioned provisions. It is, however, important to clarify beforehand, whether the provider can offer a wetsuit that fits the child.
If a white water rafting tour takes place on a more challenging river, it is imperative that all participants are good swimmers and that they are not afraid of the water. It can always happen that one gets very wet or that one falls out of the raft when manoeuvring over rough waves and past natural impediments. In situations like these, it is important not to panic and to stay calm. The rafting guide is trained exactly for these types of situations and will help anyone who goes overboard back onto the boat.
Which grades of difficulty exist?
Rivers are classified on the basis of how challenging they are to raft on. The International Scale of River Difficulty, published by the American Whitewater Association, defines 6 classes (or grades) of difficulty which range from Class I – ‘Easy’, to Class VI – ‘Extreme and Exploratory Rapids’. Depending on the classification of the river in question, white water rafting tours are assigned different levels of difficulty. Beginners’ rafting tours usually take place on rivers classified I to II. More experienced people enjoy white water rafting on rivers classified III to V. Rivers in Class VI are mostly avoided, even by professionals, as they are widely considered unsafe.
Most rivers can be divided into a number of sections with varying grades of difficulty. This means that when doing research on the difficulty level of a certain river, one will usually come across a range of different grades (e.g.: Classes II-IV). Nonetheless, the guides make sure that white water rafting tours only take place on those sections suitable for the experience level of the participants.
Class I: The Gari River in the Italian region of Latium is particularly well-suited for beginners © Cassino Adventure
Class II: Adventurers of all ages can enjoy a fun day out by rafting on the River Dee in North Wales.
Class III: Rafting participants must join forces to master the tumultuous rapids of the Verdon River © Haute-Provence Outdoor
Class V: The white water river Isel in East Tyrol is ideal for everyone seeking a challenging rafting experience © Eddy Rafting Austria
Scale of River Difficulty
|I||Weak riffles and waves with easily avoidable obstacles in the water. Low risk for swimmers.|
|II||Wide channels with clear visibility and straightforward rapids. Several rocks and medium-sized waves that can easily be navigated around with the right paddling technique.|
|III||Moderately sized and irregular waves along the rapids which cannot always be avoided. Tight passages and fast currents require the ability to keep the boat stable. On occasion, larger waves can appear, but they can typically be navigated around with relative ease. In rivers with large volumes of water, powerful currents and strong eddies can be present. Inexperienced parties are recommended to scout the rivers first.|
|IV||Rapids are powerful and intense, but relatively predictable. Waves can be large and unavoidable while passages may be somewhat restricted. As such, precise handling of the boat is required and fast manoeuvres under pressure are often necessary.|
|V||Rapids are very long, obstructed and violent, thereby exposing paddlers to a certain level of risk and requiring a high level of fitness. Drops are likely to contain large waves and holes, while eddies tend to be small, turbulent and hard to reach.|
|VI||Very few attempts to raft along these rivers. The levels of danger are quite high and the consequences of error are severe. Hence, these rivers are only recommended for teams of experts after a thorough inspection.|
*Source: American Whitewater Association
What are the best places to go white water rafting in Europe?
For many rafting enthusiasts, a certain destination is considered to be a true white water rafting hotspot if it possesses a combination of winding rivers, crystal clear water and stunning landscapes. These can typically be found in mountainous and glacial regions where rivers are filled with fresh meltwater in spring, thereby creating ideal conditions for white water rafting. In the UK, the most popular natural rivers on which to go white water rafting are located in North Wales and Scotland. On the European mainland, alpine countries such as Austria, France and Switzerland as well as several more southern countries – i.e. Croatia, Slovenia, Spain and Italy are home to some of the most scenic white water rivers and are therefore widely regarded as being true hotspots for white water rafting.
White water rafting in the UK
White water rafting in Wales
North Wales is one of the most well-known destinations for white water rafting in the UK
White water rafting in the UK promises to be a fun, action-packed adventure. Those who wish to go white water rafting in the UK are advised to explore the offers for white water rafting in Wales. Here, the leading hotspots are the rivers Dee and Tryweryn with starting points in and around the towns of Bala and Llangollen. This is where most of the white water rafting in Wales takes place. The area around the Tryweryn and Bala itself is located on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.
The River Tryweryn consists of 2 main sections referred to as the Upper River and the Lower River. The Upper River is approximately 2km in length with rapids graded III-IV, wherefore it is suitable for more experienced rafting aficionados who are looking for the thrill of traversing along rougher waters while white water rafting in Wales.
The Lower River, on the other hand, is longer – i.e. 6 km, and its rapids are of grades II-III. As such, the latter section is more beginner-friendly, something that might be appealing for people who want to try white water rafting in the UK for the very first time. Since the Tryweryn is dam released, its water levels depend somewhat on the releases from the Llyn Celyn Reservoir. Nonetheless, people who intend to go white water rafting in Wales, also have the opportunity to join a tour along the River Dee. The rapids on the Dee are also varied in terms of their difficulty level, but most of them range between Classes III and IV. Hence, the River Dee is also an ideal place for people with more experience to go rafting in Wales.
White water rafting in Scotland
Beside Wales, a well-known hotspot for white water rafting in the UK is Perthshire in Scotland. When it comes to white water rafting in Scotland, the rivers Tay and Tummel, which converge near the town of Pitlochry, are the best choice.
Out of the 2 rivers, the River Tummel is the one that requires more technical skills, ensuring an exciting experience for anyone seeking to go white water rafting in the UK. It has a difficulty level of grade III along most of its course and a spectacular, grade IV double-drop waterfall as a particular highlight. Due to its narrow, rocky nature, the Tummel is only suitable for rafting participants aged 16 or over. Also, rafting possibilities along the Tummel are dependent on the dam releases at Pitlochry and are therefore limited to the summer. As such, it is a viable destination for white water rafting in the UK only from June to September.
Alternatively, the River Tay, Scotland’s longest river, has more reliable water levels and is, therefore, an all-year-round hotspot for white water rafting in Scotland. Particularly the section between Aberfeldy and Grandtully is regularly used for white water rafting in Scotland. It is a much calmer river compared to the River Tummel, wherefore its difficulty level is mostly between grades I and II. Hence, first-time white water rafting participants will find it easy to learn how to navigate their dinghy here. Only at Grandtully one will come across a grade III descent. This is also where many competitions are carried out.
White water rafting in Lee Valley, Hertfordshire
People seeking opportunities to go white water rafting in the UK might want to give white water rafting in Lee Valley a try. By driving a little over an hour northwards from London on the A10, one will find the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Hertfordshire, one of the most well-known places to go white water rafting in the UK. This white water park is a man-made canal which was built for the 2012 Olympic Games in London as the venue for the canoe slalom events. Since then, it has also hosted the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.
Nonetheless, when there are no such high profile competitions taking place there, white water rafting in Lee Valley is open for anyone willing to have a crack at white water rafting in the UK. There are numerous offers including ones for kids and families, as well as for stag & hen parties, birthday parties, school & youth groups, and even corporate team building events.
White water rafting in Slovenia
White water rafting in the Soča Valley
The Soča River, with its turquoise water, is one of the most beautiful rivers to go white water rafting in Slovenia © Soča Rafting
The turquoise and emerald green waters of the Soča River make white water rafting in Slovenia an absolute treat for any outdoor-lover. Located ideally between the towns of Udine, Villach and Ljubljana, the Soča Valley attracts holidaymakers from all over Europe throughout the summer. Most of the people that travel there are looking for an extraordinary adventure that involves white water rafting in Slovenia.
Most of the 2 to 3 h long tours for white water rafting in the Soča Valley start in Bovec, near the Boka waterfall. The diverse and challenging rapids of the river are ideal for building team spirit among participants who must join forces to fight the rousing waves when white water rafting in the Soča Valley.
White water rafting in Bled
In close proximity to Bled, holidaymakers will find the country’s longest river, the Sava River, which boasts ideal conditions to go white water rafting in Slovenia. With levels of difficulty ranging from grades I to III, the Sava River lends itself to beginners and families, as well as to people with more advanced rafting experience who are looking for a certain degree of variation when white water rafting in Bled. Along its impressive limestone gorges, white water rafting on the Sava River invites people to relish in the stunning beauty of the surrounding landscape.
White water rafting in Croatia
White water rafting in Dalmatia
No white water rafting tour on the Cetina River is complete without a dip in the water to cool off © Rafting Pirate
The Cetina River originates in the village of the same name, which is located in the middle of the Dinaric Alps. It winds its way through Dalmatia and down to the beautiful coastal city of Omiš where it flows into the Adriatic Sea. The crystal clear white water of the Cetina River makes white water rafting in Croatia an unforgettable experience: The region around the river’s origin invites those who go white water rafting in Croatia to take regular breaks and to explore the many waterfalls as well as the Cetina Canyon and to jump into the river to cool off.
Beginners, in particular, will find many opportunities to explore what white water rafting in Croatia is all about along many sections of this picturesque river. Indeed, families with young children will almost certainly get their money’s worth when white water rafting in Dalmatia.
White water rafting on the Zrmanja River
The Zrmanja River in the South of Croatia regularly entices nature lovers with its shimmering, emerald green water. The nerve-wracking and varied rafting tours on the Zrmanja river are extremely attractive for experienced water sports enthusiasts seeking a thrilling adventure when white water rafting in Croatia.
The wild landscape of northern Dalmatia was used as a set for the classic film ‘Winnetou’ and can be visited when white water rafting on the Zrmanja River. Since water levels are relatively low in summer, people are advised to plan their tours to go white water rafting on the Zrmanja River between April and June, when the river is filled with the meltwater from the mountains.
White water rafting in Montenegro
White water rafting on the Tara River
Part of the Tara Canyon has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a real gem for white water rafting in Montenegro
The Tara River, which originates in the Žijevo mountains close to the Albanian border is the longest river in Montenegro. It winds itself all the way through the country until it flows into the Piva River close to the Bosnian border. As the river has, over centuries, carved out the largest and deepest canyon in Europe – the Tara Canyon – it is the perfect place to experience white water rafting in Montenegro. In fact, part of it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique natural beauty. Hence, white water rafting on the Tara River is more than worth it.
While the Tara River is suitable for all skill levels, groups hoping to have a more adventurous tour should try and plan their trip to go white water rafting in Montenegro either in May or in early June. When water levels drop in July, August and September, families with members of all age groups can enjoy calmer rapids along this blissful paradise for white water rafting in Montenegro. The river can be split into two sections – the upper part and the lower part. For rafting tours on the upper part, the starting point is usually in Splaviste, in the Durmitor National Park. When it comes to the lower part, white water rafting tours start in Brstanovica where the World Rafting Championships took place in 2009.
White water rafting in France
White water rafting in Verdon
White water rafting on the Verdon River guarantees fun for all ages © Yeti Rafting
The best place to go white water rafting in France is the Verdon River. It is located in the Provence region of southern France and can be reached in 2.5 hours from Nice and Marseille. The base camps of the rafting providers in the Verdon are located in Castellane. The extraordinary colour of the river, after which it was named, makes white water rafting in Verdon even more special. The Verdon has three sections that can be used to go white water rafting in France and which are of particular interest to tourists, nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. These are the Gorges du Verdon, the stretch from Castellane to the Galetas bridge and the Sainte-Croix artificial lake. The Verdon is definitely the most famous river for white water rafting in France and its grades of difficulty range from II to IV.
White water rafting in Chamonix
The town of Chamonix in the Upper Savoy region is famous for being a top-notch ski resort. Nonetheless, it is also a popular destination to go white water rafting in France. This is due to the tumultuous rapids of the Arve River, which originates here and which winds its way through the entire Upper Savoy region until it flows into Lake Geneva. Since it is fed by a large number of mountain streams, the Arve is one of the most water-abundant rivers in the country, thereby making it ideal for white water rafting in Chamonix.
As a matter of fact, the nature of the river allows for particularly large groups of 20 people or more to go white water rafting in Chamonix. It is, therefore, a perfect activity for company outings, family reunions, or weekend trips with friends. Moreover, in terms of difficulty, its grade II to III rapids mean that it is not too much of a challenge for those planning on going white water rafting in France for the first time. And to top it all off, white water rafting in Chamonix comes with amazing views of the majestic Mont Blanc – making it an even more memorable experience.
White water rafting in Spain
White water rafting in the Pyrenees
On the Noguera River, white water rafting participants will encounter one of the world’s longest rapids © ROCROI
The mountainous landscape of the Pyrenees is undoubtedly one of the best places to go white water rafting in Spain, due to its large variety of canyons and reliable supplies of water. The Noguera River is arguably one of the most popular rivers to go white water rafting in the Pyrenees. It flows through the Catalan part of the mountain range and has an over 50 km long stretch that allows for all types of tours that make for great white water rafting in the Pyrenees – from easy to more challenging.
A particular highlight along the Noguera River, or ‘Noguera Pallaresa’ as it is referred to by locals, is the ‘Quatre llarg’, one of the world’s longest rapids which promises a thrilling rush to those who are looking to enjoy some white water rafting in Spain. Starting points for many rafting tours on the Noguera River are at Llavorsí, or further downstream at Baro.
Further to the East, in Aragon, the Río Gállego River is another hot tip for people planning on booking a trip to go white water rafting in Spain. This river, which flows southwards from the French border and which joins the Ebro river near Zaragoza is characterised by its especially high waves. Indeed there is a zone along the river that is classed IV in terms of its difficulty level. However, there are also easier sections that can be conquered by younger, more inexperienced white water rafting fans. Participants of a rafting tour on the Río Gállego will generally board their raft at Murillo de Gállego.
White water rafting in Switzerland
White water rafting in Interlaken
White water rafting in Switzerland is particularly exciting on the Simme River © Outdoor Interlaken
The town of Interlaken in the Canton of Bern is an absolute hotspot for white water rafting in Switzerland. The rivers Simme, Lütschine and Aare stand out, not only because of their beauty and the stunning mountain panorama surrounding them but also because they make for a memorable rafting experience for people of all experience levels. The lower part of the Lütschine is particularly suitable for beginners as well as for families with kids. Other parts of the river, on the other hand, are made up of grade III to IV rapids, which is ideal for anyone who likes an adrenaline rush when white water rafting in Interlaken. Some tours can even be combined with with a quick dip in Lake Brienz.
White water rafting in Graubünden
The deep Rhine Gorge is one of the most spectacular places to go white water rafting in Switzerland © Kanuschule Versam
The Vorderrhein (or Anterior Rhine) is bedded in the extraordinary Rhine Gorge, which is known far beyond the country’s borders as the ‘Grand Canyon of Switzerland’. Here, rafters are bound to experience some serious white water action. Indeed, white water rafting in Graubünden has a long history and the respective sections of the Vorderrhein are amongst the first legally approved rafting routes in the country. For most tours, the meeting point is in the small town of Ilanz, which can easily be reached by train.
White water rafting in Austria
White water rafting in the Oetztal Valley
The Oetztal Valley, with its adventurous white water straits, is deemed a hotspot for white water rafting in Austria © Wiggi Rafting
The Oetztal Valley is not only a winter sports paradise, it is, in fact, also a popular destination to go white water rafting in Austria. Due to meltwater from the surrounding mountains, the Inn River and its tributaries boast perfect conditions for white water rafting tours. Particularly the Imst Gorge and the Oetztaler Ache are favoured amongst those who enjoy white water rafting in the Oetztal Valley. Most rafting providers’ meeting points are located in the villages of Haiming or in Sautens.
White water rafting in Styria
The emerald green water of the Salza River is an absolute treat to nature-loving rafting participants © Liquid Lifestyle
Besides numerous other outdoor activities that can be experienced in the so-called ‘Green Heart of Austria’, white water rafting in Styria is in exceptionally high demand. Indeed, the Gesäuse National Park is considered to be a true hotspot for white water rafting in Styria. The confluence of the rivers Enns and Salza causes the waters to whirl up at an impressive rate, thereby making any white water enthusiast’s heart beat faster. The water of the Salza River takes on astonishing colours ranging from turquoise to emerald green, whereby it becomes a true gem and a popular hotspot for white water rafting in Austria. The villages of Palfau and Landl in the district of Liezen serve as the meeting points for rafting tours on the Salza River. Wildalpen is another departure point for rafting tours on both rivers, while some white water rafting tours on the River Enns also start in Johnsbach, which is part of the village of Admont.
White water rafting in Salzburg
Children are always welcome to join in a family tour to experience white water rafting in Salzburg © Motion Center Lofer
The Austrian federal state of Salzburg is known for being an ideal destination for winter sports fans. Nonetheless, Salzburg also attracts adventurers in large numbers who flock to the state during the summer months to go white water rafting in Austria. While families and beginners can make use of the easier sections along the Saalach River, those who want more of an adrenaline kick can look forward to the rousing waves and the tumultuous rapids of the Salzach River. This river is not only the longest in the Salzburg region but also offers action and excitement for everyone who has dreamt of white water rafting in Austria. The providers typically start their tours on the Saalach River in the towns of Lofer or Zell am See. Meeting points for white water rafting tours on the Salzach River are mostly in Taxenbach, Golling and Zell am See.
White water rafting in Italy
White water rafting in the Val di Sole
The Noce River in Val di Sole is considered to be an undisputed hotspot to go white water rafting in Italy © X Raft Val di Sole
Val di Sole lies in the northern part of the province of Trentino and is a beloved destination within the white water rafting scene. As a matter of fact, the Noce River was the only European river to make the list of National Geographic’s top 10 rivers in the world by placing 9th, thereby making it the best river for white water rafting in Europe. When white water rafting in the Val di Sole, around 26 km of the 105 km long Noce River can be explored by raft. The best time to go rafting on the Noce River is from the beginning of May to the end of September. During this period of time, the river is supplied with water from a number of glaciers and water levels are consistently high. Starting points for rafting tours on the Noce River are, for example, in Commezzadura and in Mezzana.
White water rafting in Umbria
The most popular place to go white water rafting in Umbria is around the man-made waterfall Cascata delle Marmore, which is also the highest waterfall in Italy. The waterfall flows into the Nera River, the largest tributary of the Tiber River, which is relatively calm and therefore ideal for a beginners’ rafting tour. With a level of difficulty of grade I, the Nera River belongs to the easiest rivers for people to go white water rafting in Italy. As such, even families with young children can easily explore the river.
What does a typical white water rafting tour look like?
As a team, the groups jointly carry their raft to the entry point of the river
The rafting providers’ meeting points can usually be found directly at, or in close proximity to the starting point of the respective white water rafting tour. Depending on the provider, participants either travel from the base camp to the entry point of the river by car or on a shuttle bus. Before the adventure begins, members of the tour are given all the necessary equipment.
In order to ensure maximum safety throughout the tour, all participants are briefed by a certified and experienced rafting guide. Beside informing everyone about the necessary safety precautions, the guide details the exact course of events of the rafting tour and tries to clarify any questions participants may have. Together, everyone practises the right paddling technique and how to properly handle the raft. In most cases, the guides also carry a first aid kit, a mobile phone and a throw bag so as to be able to act quickly in case of an emergency. After the safety briefing is completed, nothing else stands in the way of some unforgettable white water rafting fun. With the help of the rafting guide, participants attempt to master the rapids of the white water river. Since everyone is – quite literally – in the same boat, team spirit is a very important part of every rafting tour.
At the end of the rafting tour, all participants are brought back to the entry point where they have parked their cars or where the shuttle bus is waiting. Once everyone has been transferred back to the base camp, participants can make use of the facilities to have a warm shower and change into a spare set of clothes. Many providers’ base camps have their own bar or restaurant where people can have something to eat or drink and where they can relax after an exhausting day out on their boats. Oftentimes, the providers also offer barbecues as a way to close out the whole rafting adventure in style.
Which equipment is needed to go rafting?
Besides the dinghy itself, the paddles are the most important pieces of equipment needed to go white water rafting
The great thing about rafting is that there is no need to bring along any equipment, wherefore it is an ideal activity for holidaymakers who are looking for some exciting white water fun in their respective holiday destinations. Next, to the rubber dinghies and the paddles, providers have all the necessary equipment on site, including wetsuits, neoprene socks, life jackets and helmets, so that participants don’t need to worry about bringing anything. The equipment is serviced and cleaned regularly so as to ensure it is always in good condition.
What to wear on a white water rafting tour?
All anyone has to bring along to a rafting tour in terms of clothing is the swimwear they wish to wear underneath their wetsuit as well as a pair of trainers they don’t mind getting wet. In addition, people are advised to bring along towels, shower utensils, sun cream, and a spare change of clothes. Since the neoprene socks that come with the wetsuit are quite thick, it’s a good idea to bring along loose-fitting shoes to go white water rafting.
Safety first – what to pay attention to when rafting?
White water rafting takes people on a spectacular voyage over rousing waves, past numerous rocks and other natural hurdles, and along thrilling rapids. Depending on the water level and the river’s grade of difficulty, tours can either be more or less challenging. Since getting wet is part of the whole fun, white water rafting tours usually take place even when it rains. As long as there is no hail and no thunderstorm, the weather is not much of a factor when it comes to safety.
To avoid anyone feeling unsafe and to make sure nobody puts him or herself in danger while out rafting, there is a detailed safety briefing before every tour which is carried out by the rafting guide. He or she explains how to properly handle the boat, how to use the paddle, and how to behave in unexpected situations – for example if the boat capsizes. Only once everyone’s questions have been answered and everyone feels confident enough to go out onto the water, the boat is carried to the river.
Before embarking on a rafting adventure, all participants must declare that they are physically and mentally fit to take part in the tour. This is mostly done in written form. Any illnesses, such as asthma, epilepsy or diabetes must be disclosed beforehand so that the guide can act accordingly in case of an emergency. It is also important that the rafting guide is informed about any allergies in connection with plants or animals, as white water rafting is an outdoor activity. If participants take any kind of medication such as asthma sprays or allergy tablets, they should definitely bring them along to the rafting tour.
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Best time of the year to raft the grand canyon
What is the best time of year to go Colorado River rafting in the Grand Canyon?
Temperatures can vary throughout the year but the best time to go rafting is April and October. Clear skies and high temps make for a nice contrast to the 50-degree Colorado River. Milder weather is expected in April and September/October. The desert often experiences a dramatic monsoon in July and August. Even with a regular monsoon, Arizona typically has very low humidity and dry heat. We have some tips and tricks on how to keep on cool on a river trip when temperatures soar.
Is the trip strenuous?
Most of our trips are moderately strenuous, with exposure to the elements. We encourage guests to participate in as many activities as possible. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. The guides will assess the difficulty level before beginning a side hike so you can choose whether to participate. They’ll also demonstrate how to set up your campsite and wash your dishes when you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This includes side hikes, setting up your campsite, and getting yourself on and off the rafts multiple times each day.
Best Time for Big Whitewater when Rafting Grand Canyon
The Colorado River’s water levels through Grand Canyon are regulated every 9-12 hours and determined by the Colorado River Management Plan Big whitewater in Grand Canyon is not during spring runoff like most other rivers as this river does not rely on the melting of the snow and ice for its water flow. The more electricity is needed in the surrounding states, Las Vegas, for example, the more water is let down the river. The commercial rafting season in the Grand Canyon National Park operates from Spring through Autumn.
What the best months to do Grand Canyon rapids rafting?
June until August is a hot month with an average daily temperature of more than 100 degrees F. That means summer brings about the worst heat along the canyon’s floor on the Colorado River.
In July, the hottest temperature can reach an average of 105 degrees and the highest at 115 degrees. At this time, the currents in the river become strong and dangerous. This is because water rapids are in range to cool off from summer rain brought about by the monsoon season. Because of this, many people book a rafting trip making July to August the busiest months. If you do not want to be jammed with a lot of people, it is suggested to take rafting trips from April to mid-June or mid-September until the end of October.
Grand Canyon National Park Weather & Fall Time Whitewater Rafting Trips
Is autumn really the best time to visit? Always consider the weather in the Grand Canyon as it varies from summer when it’s very hot and cools down during spring or autumn. Temperatures can fall to 50 degrees low and can rise to as hot as 115 degrees during the summer season. Nevertheless, regardless of the season, you have to take note that the Grand Canyon itself has its own temperature differences as you go along the way. For example, if you come closer to river mile 0, the temperature becomes cooler but it gets hotter when you go towards the west.
If you are planning a rafting trip, remember that there is also a temperature difference of 20 degrees from the river at the top of the rim. This is also another reason why tourists are advised to bring extra clothes appropriate for both warm and cool temperatures.
There is actually no wrong time to get that rafting experience you’ve always been dreaming of during the Grand Canyon commercial rafting season. However, if you want to go rafting during moderate weather, then you should go in September. During this month, fall brings optimal weather conditions that can keep you relaxed as you take time to raft with your family or friends.
On the other hand, moderate weather conditions for a water rafting trip can be done in April and May. You only don’t get to go white river rafting but you also get to see blooming flowers alongside your trips. In October, the environment becomes more colorful as the leaves change colors marking the beginning of fall. Longer trips can also be planned as autumn is also the start of the white rafting season. If you’re lucky, you will be able to see the California Condors or the Bald Eagles. Grand Canyon River visitors are also permitted to stay longer during this season as these months have earlier sunsets.
Planning Springtime Rafting Trips
If you want to go out on an 83 degrees F temperature, then April is the best for you. If you want to enjoy the highs of May at 93 degrees F, then you can enjoy hiking down the Grand Canyon aside from doing rafting.
For those who do not want to take extreme rapid challenges, going rafting in a low water season is the best idea. This happens during spring or autumn so be sure you’ve got your schedule booked.
But don’t worry about not getting your whitewater experience due to less water at this time of the year. Remember that the Canyon has a lot of faces to offer its prospective visitors no matter what time of the year. If your main goal is getting to the Colorado River for a whitewater experience, then spring offers the bliss for that rapids adventure.
Visiting Grand Canyon all year round
Still can’t decide which season to go and visit the Grand Canyon river? Don’t worry! You can do so at any time of the year. Winter can be shivering for you but it can certainly offer great picturesque scenes where the grand canyon is covered with snow. If you want to go during the heat of summer, you can enjoy side canyons and hiking.
Take note that the park service is heavily crowded during peak seasons including spring, summer, and fall. However, not a lot of people come to visit during the cold season.
Excitement seekers looking for the best raft experience can book their visits between the spring to autumn seasons. This will guarantee your Glen Canyon Dam holiday with cold waters awaiting you at 48 degrees F. Meanwhile, those who are looking for quiet and peaceful multi-day holidays can visit the Grand Canyon from December to February. At this time of year, the weather tends to be chilly so don’t forget to keep yourself warm against the frosty temperatures.
To be able to ensure a fun experience at the canyons, be prepared and have your booking ready in advance. Check the local weather as this will help you know what to expect and the best time suitable for you to come.
Is There a Bad Time For A Rafting Trip?
There isn’t any bad timing to raft down the Colorado River. In fact, the water flows are regulated that can have motorized and non-motorized trips to operate throughout.
Did you know that water levels became so high sometime in 1983? This resulted in passengers taking a hike around crystal rapid. However, this was also the same time when Glen Canyon Dam received a lot of spillover from Lake Powell. The waters were released at 100,000 cubic feet every second. This turned Glen Canyon Dam to increase its water levels.
Well, this happened a long time ago and if you don’t want to go for a high water level adventure, then the months of September to October offer slow-moving waters for your trips. The amount of water released at a specified time of the year also varies which is why it is difficult to guarantee water levels. Nevertheless, commercial river raft season will make it a good time to schedule your trips.
Frequently Asked Questions about whitewater rafting at the Grand Canyon Park
Did you know the Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the most studied landscapes in the world? The erosion created of the river Colorado makes the Grand Canyon as we know it today. The rim has been visited by more than 5 million tourists each year to look at its edge and see the immensity of the place. But to truly experience its majesty, you need to experience its hidden treasures.
Visiting the place for a day, taking pictures, visiting the gift shop, and grab some ice cream afterward would not be enough. Seeing the Grand Canyon might be a popular thing to do but if you want to complete your iconic American road trip, a planned whitewater rafting on the flowing waters at the bottom of the canyon will be one of those once in a lifetime adventures you should not miss.
How dangerous is it to raft the Grand Canyon?
Different guides offer unique experiences of the grand tour of the river Colorado. They vary in terms of itinerary, provided gears, and raft type. You can narrow down from their offering what suits you best. Some outfitters may offer 3-4 days motorized raft trips, some have a 5-7 days oar-powered raft trip with experienced guides that do more than just provide safety while on the water.
They also will cook and spice it up with their knowledge of geology, astronomy, and the local canyon folklore. Backpacking and pitching tents after your daily adventure on the water will be a thing to brag about in the years to come.
Rafting seasons run from April to October. But anytime is a good time as the river can provide the type of excitement that you seek. Mild weather rafting can be done in April, May, early June, September, or October. During the monsoon season, expect more dramatic desert thunderheads while navigating the waters.
Safety is one of the top priorities of The National Park Services. They regulate the outfitters’ numbers of departures thus limiting the rafting outfitters’ inventory as the park is operated in a controlled environment.
Since more people are spending more on experience and less on things, the increased demand for outdoor recreation has risen, and more generational trips with families are being booked in advance. The age requirement will determine if families will be qualified to book for Upper (minimum age of 12) or Lower (minimum age of 9) Canyon trips.
How long does it take to raft down the Grand Canyon?
Lower Grand Canyon Trips
Starting on the Phantom Ranch, your outfitter will guide you on a thrilling water experience for 4 ½ days to 6 ½ days. You may see waterfalls and Indian ruins along the way while rafting. Communing with wildlife can also be possible.
Upper Grand Canyon Trips
Depending on your outfitter, the Upper Grand Canyon Trip will be a thrilling 3 ½ day to 5 ½ days trip that will take you 86 miles from Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch located deep within the GrandCanyon.
On your last day of water adventure, both upper and lower canyon trips will conclude with a ten-mile hike from the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon Rim, which will complete your Grand Canyon experience.
Is rafting the Grand Canyon worth it?
Some adventurers who had experienced the best of Grand Canyon rafting said that it is an experience of a lifetime. Each day of your trip offers a different kind of adventure.
Waking up to the sound of rushing water and the smell of coffee, having breakfast with your group, forming a “bucket line” to help load the gears onto the boat as the Colorado River beckons you to continue your ventures once more. You will gain lifelong experience and friendship with your group while enjoying the spectacular white water rapids and stretches of calm waters after.
At the end of the day, while setting up for camp, you will witness the gorgeous canyon sunset and relive your day during dinnertime. The camaraderie and conversations will leave their mark on your memory for years to come including how you fall asleep on your sleeping bag under the blanket of stars.
What is the best Grand Canyon rafting company?
There are a lot of companies that offer unique Grand Canyon rafting trips for their customers. Given the variety of options, there are criteria of selection that can guide you in choosing the best Grand Canyon rafting company.
When is the best time to go there?
Timing refers to the number of days to hike and explore the different areas of the Grand Canyon both on the water and side canyons. There should be time allotted to explore the area after the white water rafting trips.
How much will it cost?
Costs refer to the affordability of the trip, as well as, the quality of the experience. It also includes ease of travel to and from the trip as well as the location where the trip starts and ends. If you’re lucky, you might just win a free rafting trip.
White Water Rafting Season: Best Time for Rafting Grand Canyon
Best Time for Big Whitewater when Rafting Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon attracts tourists because of its unique and intriguing geology. However, beyond its famous red and orange walls and winding crannies, it is a perfect white water rafting spot as well. Rafters not only get an inside look at the canyon but they are also rewarded with Class IV to V rapids for an adrenaline rush filled ride and enjoy the big whitewater during the high water season.
The Colorado River’s water levels through Grand Canyon are regulated every 9-12 hours and determined by the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP). Big whitewater in Grand Canyon is not during spring run off like most other rivers as this river does not rely on the melting of the snow and ice for its water flow. Instead, white water rafting season in the Grand Canyon is generally during the warmer months when air conditioning becomes a necessity in the Southwest, and more water is needed downstream for agriculture. The more electricity needed in the surrounding states, Las Vegas for example, the more water is let down the river. The Glen Canyon Dam is responsible for producing this electricity and holding back the enormous amount of water collected at Lake Powell.
The commercial rafting season through Grand Canyon National Park operates from April through October. Each month has fluctuating water flows and every day the water is released within the predetermined water flow amount. These water levels are determined by the amount of moisture, snow melt and rain that the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin receives. Once the amount of water is estimated, hydrologists determine the amount of water released on a monthly basis to meet the goals outlined in the CRMP. The water from the Colorado River is shared amongst 7 states and Mexico. The CRMP helps to meet the distribution goals and regulations in place to properly distribute the water amongst these areas. What does this mean for big whitewater in the Grand Canyon? It means that every year the water flows are different, and every month there is a team of scientists determining the amount of water that will be released downstream of Glen Canyon Dam.
When to Raft Grand Canyon for the Big Whitewater Experience?
The decision of when to raft Grand Canyon or the best time to visit grand canyon comes down to personal preference. If you are someone hoping for the chance of experiencing big whitewater in the Canyon, your best bet would be to travel during July or August. Coincidentally and historically, this is when most people visit grand canyon and the rims. This is when the hydroelectric needs in the Southwest are at their peak, and the most water is released. Typically, the water flows during July and August are being released between 12,000-18,000 cubic feet per second. Many of the renown rapids in the Grand Canyon, such as Crystal and Lava Falls, get larger and become more exciting during higher water flows, and are at their peak for big whitewater.
If you are hoping to not have the big whitewater rafting experience in the Grand Canyon, you will want to consider rafting during slightly lower water season. April, May, September and October all tend to have lower water flows being released and this slower water means just about 1 mph slower then June/July/August. Trends show that April has the lowest water levels. Typically in April you can expect to see steady flows, where there is minimal fluctuation of water levels being released. Generally, these flows are between 5,000-8,000 cubic feet per second. May, September and October tend to have more fluctuation than April, meaning the CRMP allows the water to be released between 8,000-16,000 cubic feet per second during these months.
Key Points to Keep In Mind
All of this information is useful if you understand water flows and cubic feet per second. But it can mean very little to someone who has yet to learn about water flows on high volume rivers, such as the Colorado River. If you don’t understand fluctuation or the Colorado River Management Plan, no need to worry. Your guides will educate you on this during your trip. At this time, here are the key points to keep in mind when considering the best time to visit the Grand Canyon:
- The higher the water level (cubic feet per second) being released, the larger many of the “big” rapids in Grand Canyon become. The big whitewater tends to be in late June, July or August. On the same note, the lower the water level, many smaller rapids become larger or rated at a higher level, due to additional waves created by rocks or obstructions in the water, or they become more technical to run. This means that anytime you raft in the Grand Canyon, you will have exciting rapids and get to experience some big whitewater.
- Regardless of the water flow speeds, there is one constant and that is the fact that towards the mouth of lake mead, when nearing the end of your full or lower canyon raft trip, the water does slow down. Couple this with some headwinds that occur in certain parts of the river and the non-motor rafts can be a bit more challenging to keep pace. Have no fear however, your guides are prepared for this and any slower rafting is already anticipated in any given itinerary or trip length that he outfitters offer.
- Those who have visited the canyon rim tend to ask how big is the grand canyon and this is a question that is not so easy to answer. The total length of the river is 280 river miles as the start of Grand Canyon begins in Marble Canyon at Lees Ferry and ends at Pearce Ferry near the mouth of Lake Mead. Along the way, the canyon walls fluctuate in height answering another often asked question of how high is grand canyon. The tallest part of the canyon is at the north rim with an elevation of 8,297 ft. The south is 7,522 ft in elevation. Often, it’s easier to answer this question of how big is Grand Canyon, by simply saying “you need to see it to believe it”.
Weather & Fall Time Whitewater Rafting Trips
When looking at water levels, also consider Grand Canyon weather, as the weather can be very hot in the summer, and cool in the spring or fall. Temperatures fluctuate from a low of 50 degrees during the shoulder seasons to a high of 115 during the summer months. On the other hand, regardless of the month, visitors should note that there are temperature differences along the way. The further east you go, or the closest to river mile 0, it is normally cooler but they pick up as you travel downriver, or towards the west. There can also be a 20-degree variation between temperatures at the river and at the top of the rim. This is why tourists are advised to bring clothing appropriate for both warmer and cooler days. There’s really no wrong time to visit and raft the Grand Canyon during the commercial rafting season, but if moderate weather is a factor, the fall season might be the right time for you.
April and May are popular months because of the moderate weather, as well as the chance to see some blooming flowers. However, Autumn is an optimal time to visit the Grand Canyon, with similarly mild weather. The environment starts to look even more colorful in October when yellow vegetation begins to bloom. It is also the best month to see California Condors and Bald Eagles. Visitors must be prepared with clothing for both cooler and warmer temperatures, as they may expect to have both during their trip. Another advantage is, as fall whitewater rafting season begins, longer trips can be planned. They are normally permitted to be longer during these months due to the earlier sunsets.
Springtime Rafting Trips
If you prefer a more comfortable outside air temperature, April averages 83°F highs and 53°F lows while May averages 93°F highs and 67°Fs, making for some ideal hiking and rafting conditions down in the Canyon. Also, if you prefer an adventure with less extreme rapids challenges, take a rafting trip during a low water season in either spring or fall. Don’t fret, you’ll still get your whitewater, but with the river carrying slightly less water during this time of the year, your overall experience will be more laid-back.
Though spring is a blissful and comfortable time of year to raft your way through the Grand Canyon, you will unquestionably experience the Canyon in all of its many faces of glory no matter what time of the year you decide to visit.
There Is No Bad Time For A Rafting Trip
In other words, you can’t choose a bad time to raft down the Colorado River. To date, the CRMP has regulated water flows that are always run-able for both motorized and non-motorized trips. There was a time in 1983 when the water levels were so high, that the National Park Service required passengers to hike around Crystal Rapid. This however was during a time when the water from Lake Powell was spilling over Glen Canyon Dam, and being released at around 100,000 cubic feet per second. There has not been a time when too little water was released, forcing rafters to hike around rapids. If you are hoping for the lowest water levels and slowest moving water on your trip, consider rafting in April, early May, late September or October. Every year the amount of water being released changes with the amount of moisture gained in the winter, due to this rafting outfitters cannot guarantee any water levels during any time of year. Having said this and as touched on above, one important fact to consider whether choosing to raft the full length or partial canyon beginning at the south rim, slower and lower water levels sometimes make certain rapids react more aggressively and contrastingly some larger rapids react less aggressively during higher faster water flows, so really any time during the commercial rafting season is a good time to visit Grand Canyon for a raft trip.
What Happens In The Whitewater Rafting Off-Season?
Wondering what everybody is up to when the whitewater rafting season in the Grand Canyon is over? Rather than rest and relaxation, we and our operators are doing the hustle and bustle, making sure everything is perfect for the next season Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trips. Our operators use every moment they can during the tourism lull, excitedly preparing behind the scenes.
First and foremost on the off-season chore list for all operators is equipment maintenance, and they all take this extremely seriously. As you can imagine, all of the rafting equipment (rafts, oars, motors, dry bags, tents, cots/sleeping pads, chairs, coolers, life jackets, etc.) sees a lot of use during the commercial Grand Canyon rafting season. Constant upkeep is imperative and regularly performed during the season. Yet, operators use the off-season to scour every inch of their equipment in their warehouses fixing any dent, ding or potential problem. Everything gets cleaned and repaired. If something cannot be easily remedied and carefully revamped, our operators choose to purchase brand new equipment. Safety first!
In the operators’ offices, staff is hard at work organizing details, updating menus general paperwork including risk waivers and medical forms for the upcoming season. They update trip packets that have specific details on every aspect of every trip to help better prepare rafters for their vacations. Seasoned guides go through training courses to stay fresh on their knowledge and CPR/First Aid, and new guides get put through the training wringer. Here at Advantage Grand Canyon we’re busy adding the new whitewater rafting trips that our operators have meticulously crafted. If you’ve already booked your trip, check out our blog and FAQ to prepare yourself for the adventure that awaits. If you haven’t booked yet, contact us today!
We are a team of experts, having voyaged every route in every raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and are ready to help you plan your trip!