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7 California River-Rafting Trips to Take Next

With the weather so perfect, it’s also the perfect time to get your mind and body ready to go river rafting in California.

February 13, 2021

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Thrill-seeking nature lovers, rejoice! With spring right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get your mind and body ready to go river rafting in California. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a scenic float or a professional searching for your next adrenaline-pumping rapid, the Golden State has a river that’ll realize all of your white-water rafting dreams. Brush up on your California rivers, gather your adventurous friends, and get ready for a river-rafting adventure of a lifetime.

A guide to white-water rafting in California

Just about anyone can go white-water rafting in California. The key is choosing the right river for your skill level. Rapids are classified from Class I (easy and calm) to Class IV (wild and challenging to navigate). You also have a wide range of rafting tours to choose from: half-day, full-day, or even multi-day tours. Doing your research before selecting a spot to go river rafting in California is crucial.

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Where to go white water rafting in Northern California

1. Trinity River

Rapids rating: Class II–V
Nearest town: Willow Creek

Northern California has some of the best river-rafting excursions in the country, and the Trinity River is proof of that. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert paddler, rafting on this California river is bound to be a treat. You can find more serene floating and wildlife viewing on the nature-enclaved Lower Trinity. Step up to Pigeon Point from there, and you’ll face Class II to III rapids—perfect for first-timers.

But if you’re a real pro at river rafting in California, Trinity’s Burnt Ranch Gorge is the place for you. The Class V rapids at this wild white-water spot are sure to give you a few thrills (and potential) spills. Previously thought unrunnable, Burnt Ranch Gorge’s extreme conditions make it suitable only for highly experienced white-water rafters in California .

2. Truckee River

Rapids rating: Class II–III
Nearest town: South Lake Tahoe

The Truckee River is a perfect spot for beginner and intermediate paddlers looking to go white-water rafting in Northern California. Soak in the sun and trail your fingers through the (mostly) tranquil waters on your Truckee river-rafting adventure. You can take many breaks along the way as well, as Truckee is lined by beautiful picnic spots and swimming holes waiting to be discovered. The rafting trips on the Truckee River usually require half a day to complete and are a blast, so consider adding one to your itinerary when spending a weekend in Truckee .

3. Russian River

Rapids rating: Class I–III
Nearest town: Cloverdale

Featuring diverse terrain, beautiful wilderness, and clear waters, the Russian River provides respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. This gorgeous river also offers a glimpse into California history, as it takes you through farmlands and historic towns. Russian River white-water rafting is ideal for those who want to take their paddling skills up a notch. With Class II and III rapids making up the majority of this NorCal river, the elevations and jumps here and there give paddlers just enough excitement without the danger.

4. American River

Rapids rating: Class II–IV
Nearest town: Auburn

When it comes to white-water rafting in Sacramento , everyone seems to love the South Fork of the American River. The splashy Class III rapids at this California river are a blast—especially on a hot summer’s day. But if you had a more challenging ride in mind, you’ll want to head out to the Middle and North Forks of the American River. The Middle Fork boasts one of the most unique rapids in all of California—the Tunnel Chute—which was formed when miners blasted a tunnel through the side of a cliff to divert water. The Chute drops you 6 feet before whisking you through a 90-foot-long tunnel.

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But perhaps the most scenic spot for river rafting in California is the North Fork of the American River. The emerald-green waters of this spectacular river flow untamed through a forested gorge with 2,000-foot cliffs, with nearly non-stop white-water rapids. American River rafting is a must-do for all water sports enthusiasts looking for a thrill-inducing experience.


Top places for white water rafting in Southern California


5. Kern River

Rapids rating: Class III–IV
Nearest town: Kernville

Sadly, SoCal is not as abundant in river rafting destinations as NorCal. But the few rivers that do exist here provide rapids for days and awesome adventuring opportunities like no other. Since white-water rafting in San Diego and white-water rafting in Los Angeles aren’t really possible, making the trip to the Kern River is the next best thing.

Not too far from L.A. is the Lower Kern River—a rafting spot like no other. Paddlers here can expect more challenging whitewater during the spring and a calmer, more reliable flow during the summer. Looking for a weekend escape from the city? Paddle the entire stretch of the Lower Kern, which amounts to a two-day adventure surrounded by wilderness and beautiful scenery.

6. Kaweah River

Rapids rating: Class IV
Nearest town: Three Rivers

The most important factor to take into account when planning a rafting trip on the Kaweah River is timing. Flowing from the peaks of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks , this steep river offers some of the best white-water rafting in California. But to enjoy Kaweah in all its glory, you should aim to visit during the snowmelt season, which is from April through June.

Sorry, beginner and intermediate paddlers, but rafting on this California river requires serious expertise. The lower section of the river offers 10 miles of Class IV rapids with narrow chutes and plenty of obstacles. But if you’re very experienced, you might also be able to tackle the six-mile stretch in the upper section, just outside park boundaries. Though we must warn you: Only try this section if you’re extremely sure of your paddling skills.

7. Merced River

Rapids rating: Class III–IV
Nearest town: El Portal

You won’t find any white-water rafting spots in Yosemite National Park , but this is the closest you can get to one. Running down from the High Sierra, the wild Merced River flows through Yosemite and right past Highway 140. The 18-mile-long, free-flowing river ranks high up on everyone’s list of places to go river rafting in California.

If you’re not very experienced, it’s best to hit up the Merced River when the weather starts getting warmer. As the snowmelt subsides, the river mellows out to a fun, Class III level that lasts well through July. But those up for a challenge should visit between April and June for thrilling Class IV rapids.

River Rafting Near Me?

Here at OTL, we know about shows, events, and other things to do. But, outdoor activities? Not so much. So, we consulted an adventure-seeking expert to put together this guide to “river rafting near me.” You go all-in with friends or keep it tame and float along with your family.

However you decide to pursue it, you’ll be making some memories – and that’s what life’s about, isn’t it?

river rafting adventures, river rafting near me, rafting, whitewater rafting

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

You know that old nursery rhyme “row, row, row your boat?” They were onto something when they said it made life like a dream. There’s nothing quite like floating down a river in a raft to make all of your troubles seem to melt away. The current gently pushing you along; the wind whispering across the banks; the sound of birds chirping. River rafting truly does make life a dream!

Getting into river rafting can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’ve never gone and are unsure of where to go. Places like Eagle, Colorado, Missoula, Montana, and Oak Hill, West Virginia, are some of the best for finding excellent rivers (as well as river outfitters) to help you begin your journey of getting started with river rafting!

But just getting to these places may not answer all of your questions about getting on the river. That’s why we put together this quick guide to help you get started with river rafting this summer. Let’s get started!

young river rafter, river rafting for families

Get Me Started With River Rafting Near Me

The best thing you can do to get started is to find a local outfitter to chat up. These companies should offer guided trips down the river you plan to tackle. They’ll be able to tell you what to expect when getting on the river, what sections to avoid, and even tell you what sort of gear to bring.

Consider booking a trip with the outfitter before you attempt to float the river yourself to get a sense of where to paddle based on how an experienced guide navigates the river you’d like to float.

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How Do I Find the Best River Rafting Spots in My Area?

The best thing that you can do to find the best river rafting spots in your area (aside from finding a local outfitter, of course) is to Google the phrase “river rafting near_______” and put the city that you’ll be visiting.

As mentioned in the intro, some of the best places to go rafting are in western states like Colorado and Montana and eastern states like West Virginia. Generally speaking, areas with access to mountains are some of the bes.

River Rafting in South Africa

River Rafting in South Africa. Click here for a list of the best white water rafting near you.

When it comes to River Rafting or White Water Rafting, South Africa’s impressive rivers keep up with the best international rafting destinations! An ever-increasing number of families, couples, solo travelers, and adventure-seekers are opting for the thrills and spills of river-based leisure activities.

River rafting involves a journey along a river in an inflatable raft using a paddle to…

<def_description_image_text></p><p>” width=”650″ height=”488″ /></p><p>River Rafting in South Africa. Click here for a list of the best white water rafting near you.</p><p>When it comes to River Rafting or White Water Rafting, South Africa’s impressive rivers keep up with the best international rafting destinations! An ever-increasing number of families, couples, solo travelers, and adventure-seekers are opting for the thrills and spills of river-based leisure activities.</p><p>River rafting involves a journey along a river in an inflatable raft using a paddle to propel the raft along flat water and to maneuver through the white water. River rapids are categorized into one of 6 classes. The first two, easy and novice, are suitable for inexperienced rafters, and expert guidance is recommended for classes 3 to 6 – intermediate, advanced, expert, and extreme. In short, class 1 is a fast-flowing river with a few riffles and the explosive class 6 rapids are for extreme thrill-seeking daredevils only! Many rivers offer a combination of classes over their course which vary depending on the water level and other factors.</p><p>Rafters may opt to be a passenger in a 4-8 seater raft, brilliant for families and the not-so-confident. Just hang on, enjoy the ride and leave the paddling to expert river guides! Or, paddle your own 2 seater Croc knowing a guide is nearby to assist if necessary. Rafting operators supply all equipment including raft, paddles, flotation devices, helmets, and dry bags for personal items. Most operators cater for beginners to advanced making river rafting a perfect outdoor activity for everyone!</p><p>Rafting operators are conveniently dotted throughout South Africa and in some of the country’s most spectacular locations! The beauty of rafting is that you get to experience the exhilaration and fun of negotiating white water runs with plenty of tranquil, flat water sections in between – an opportunity to admire the breathtaking scenery and spot wildlife and birds. Rafting excursions range from half-day trips to multi-day expeditions.</p><p>Considered one of the top 10 rafting rivers in Africa is the Orange River – South Africa’s longest. The Orange is a rafting Mecca suitable for the entire family with a range of beginner and expert runs in the Northern Cape and Free State. The scenery is a feast for the eyes, the weather delightful and riverside campsites are out of this world! Also in the Free State, the Ash River and the Vaal River are both great year-round rafting destinations.</p><p>River rafting is just as good in KwaZulu-Natal. Making a splash in the Tugela, the Injusuti, the Umkomaas, and the Umzimkhulu rivers, and the Great Usutu River in nearby Swaziland is also well worth exploring.</p><p>Rafting on the Olifants River in Mpumalanga is based near the magnificent Blyde River Canyon, and Sabie River rafting offers paddlers some great wildlife viewing opportunities.</p><p>The Doring, the Breede, and the Palmiet rivers in the Western Cape attract rafters from all over, and the Eastern Cape also has its share of white water adventures on the Great Brak River in the Karoo and the Kraai River on the Wild Coast, fed by the pristine streams of the Drakensberg and Lesotho mountains.</p><p>The Orange River rafting trips are the ultimate getaway for the whole family as well as a much-needed escape from the fast-paced pressures of city life and to get in touch with the heart of nature. The climate is hot and the water is warm. The stark, arid sceneries are breathtaking. You have the chance to sleep under the star-studded skies and wake up to the most magnificent sunrises. There are a variety of birds and animals. The food is top class and you are bound to be entertained by the experienced river guides that lead you through the magic of this incredible river over a period of 4 -6 days. The days are fun-filled as you paddle and play through flat water sections to push through fun-filled rapids. This is a teambuilding experience and the memories will stay with you for life. There are various sections of the Orange River that you can explore from the gorge near Augrabies falls to the lower section of the Orange River which borders Namibia which takes you close to the Fish River canyon.</p><div style=

Go on, make a splash! Browse Dirty Boots’ selection of operators for your nearest river rafting adventure.

River Rafting Operators

Gravity Adventures - Breede River Rafting

Cape Town, Overberg | River Rafting – Gravity Adventures – Breede River Rafting

Gravity Adventures offers Breede River Raftingand team building near Cape Town. Gravity Adventures is run by adventurers for the adventurous. We have been operating since 1997 and are the leading on.

Gravity Adventures - Doring River Rafting

Cederberg | River Rafting – Gravity Adventures – Doring River Rafting

Gravity Adventures – Doring River Rafting Operator near Cape Town. The Doring River, situated close to the town of Clanwilliam and approx. 3 hour’s drive from Cape Town. Set in the foothills of.

Active Escapes Rafting Trips

Drakensberg | River Rafting – Active Escapes Rafting Trips

Active Escapes – White Water Rafting Trips on the Tugela and Umkomaas Rivers, Midlands. Active Escapes offers day and multi-day river rafting tours on the mighty waters of the Tugela and Umkomaas to.

Itchyfeet SA – River Rafting

Drakensberg | River Rafting – Itchyfeet SA – River Rafting

The Tugela River is our playground when it comes to white water rafting and kayaking. Where else than Tugela River? You won’t find more action, excitement and bush anywhere else. It really is one.

Adventure Kayaking - Orange River

Free State | River Rafting – Adventure Kayaking – Orange River

Adventure Kayaking – Orange River. Our passion is paddling! Many years spent on all different rivers brought us to our destination “Adventure Kayaking” residing on the Vanderkloof Dam. Our 4.

Earth Adventures - River Rafting

Free State | River Rafting – Earth Adventures – River Rafting

The Vaal River is an exciting river rafting destination. Try a day of river rafting and experience the thrill and challenges of conquering the rapids of this mighty river or spend a weekend exploring.

Gravity Adventures - Orange River Free State

Free State | River Rafting – Gravity Adventures – Orange River Free State

Gravity Adventures – Free State Orange River Rafting operator. The Maluti Meander is the ideal Orange River trip for Gauteng, KZN, Eastern Cape and Free State based clients as the travelling times.

River Rafting - Clarens Xtreme

Free State | River Rafting – River Rafting – Clarens Xtreme

Bring over your family and friends to the Clarens Xtreme adventure zone in town for a great time. We are easy to find, 300 m from the main entrance to town. Just look out for the giant CX sign. We.

Ground Zero Adventures - River Rafting

Gauteng | River Rafting – Ground Zero Adventures – River Rafting

In these tough times we don’t spend enough quality time with our spouses and kids! So make the change and BOOK an exhilarating and fun River Rafting trip with Ground Zero Adventures in Gauteng. that.

Liquid Adventures - River Rafting

Gauteng | River Rafting – Liquid Adventures – River Rafting

Liquid Adventures – River Rafting operator in Gauteng, South Africa. River Rafting in an inflatable two-man canoe can prove to be more adventurous and fun than you ever imagined! The challenge is.

Karoo | River Rafting – Karoo River Rafting

Karoo River Rafting is situated between Cradock and Middelburg in the Eastern Cape. This perfect farm getaway combines the breathtaking beauty of the Karoo with year-round river rafting and many on 4.

GZ Adventures - River Rafting

Mpumalanga | River Rafting – GZ Adventures – River Rafting

GZ Adventures – River rafting trips in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. Your Hazyview Adventure Starts Here. 2 Hour River Rafting Experience on the Sabie River, Hazyview There are certainly more serene ways.

Induna Adventures - River Rafting

Mpumalanga | River Rafting – Induna Adventures – River Rafting

Induna Adventures is a river rafting operator and offers trips on the Sabie River near Hazyview, Mpumalanga. A one-stop adventure and teambuilding center, with more than 14 activities and packages a.

Sabie River Adventures - River Rafting

Mpumalanga | River Rafting – Sabie River Adventures – River Rafting

Sabie River Adventures offer outdoor adventure activities for individuals, families and corporate groups. All the activities start and finish at our one-stop Adventure Centre situated in the Sabie A.

Bushwhacked Outdoor Adventures - River Rafting

Northern Cape | River Rafting – Bushwhacked Outdoor Adventures – River Rafting

We are river rafting specialists, situated at our campsite, Fiddlers Creek on the Orange River, Northern Cape. Bushwhacked promises you adventure, fun, relaxation, thrills, awesome scenery, great an.

Northern Cape | River Rafting – Gravity Adventures – Orange River Rafting

Gravity Adventures – Orange River Rafting Operator situated in Cape Town. The Orange River, or Gariep, is one the continent’s great rivers. Gravity Adventures has explored her waters from source a.

Kalahari River and Safari Company

Northern Cape | River Rafting – Kalahari River and Safari Company

Join us on an age old river for fun like no other. Offering a variety of fantastic adventures for thrill seekers alike Kalahari River & Safari Company will take you on a journey filled with memory 3.

Karoo Adventure - River Rafting

Northern Cape, Little Karoo, Karoo | River Rafting – Karoo Adventure – River Rafting

Karoo Adventure Holiday – River rafting on the Orange River, Northern Cape. Experience authentic Karoo meals, adrenaline activities, hospitality and desert wildlife on the Orange River. Enjoy the of.

Swaziland, Eswatini | River Rafting – Swazi Trails – River Rafting

As one of the founders of rafting in Southern Africa, Swazi Trails have been offering white-water trips on the Grade IV Great Usutu River since 1991. Half- and full-day outings depart daily, with in.

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