Whether you are a first time rafter or a white water fanatic, heading down rapids in a giant inflatable raft is an exhilarating activity. Waters are given a rating that is designated based on difficulty according to the water speed, the amount of turbulence, the existence/strength of whirlpools, and the rocks in the river. The results are divided into classes ranging from gentle waters in Class I-III or the more thrilling and dangerous Class IV and V. White water rafting provides a different perspective on places with the chance to spot wildlife and gorgeous scenery far from any road or trail. That is why some of my favorite trips have been in small towns leading through mountain wildernesses where nature is the most pristine.
New River Gorge, West Virginia
My first rafting experience was in through the thrilling New River Gorge National Park on a guided 6-hour whitewater rafting trip. The Fall Lower Gauley consists of over 70 rapids up to Class V over the span of 17 miles, which includes rapids with fun (and fairly accurate descriptions) names like Class V "Heaven's Gate" and "Pure Screaming Hell." The trip was a blast not to mention the breathtaking scenery the entire way. After several hours we pulled off to a dry landing area along the river and the guide set up a small lunch break at about the halfway point where we got to swim for a bit and relax. After a near flip over and hitting a few more big rapids, the trip ended at the famous New River Gorge Bridge spanning far overhead. We went in mid-July but tours typically run from March through October each year.
Arkansas River, Colorado
Near Colorado Springs just outside Canon City is the Arkansas River which also has Class III to V rapids and traverses through the heart of the magnificent Royal Gorge. The group was a fun mix of people from all over the country visiting Colorado and we all left completely soaked to the skin and grinning from ear to ear. The combination of scenic beauty along the Arkansas River Valley, the continuous whitewater along the route, and the impressive Colorado mountain terrain, made this quite a memorable rafting experience. It is no surprise that the white water rafting on the Arkansas River in Colorado is one of the most popular rivers in the country. There are also plenty of breweries in the area to go enjoy a cold beer after a long afternoon of paddling!
Urubamba River, Peru
By far the sketchiest location I have been white water rafting, I got dropped off with two friends in Santa Maria, Peru where we picked up gear from an abandoned looking warehouse on the edge of a random town. It felt like the opening scene of a thriller where you are questioning if anyone is actually stupid enough to go into such a run-down building, but after an hour of anxious waiting, a bus actually picked us up and took us to down to the river. The section of the Urumbamba River where we paddled had Class III and IV rapids and we got to spend two and a half hours on the river until the sun finished setting over the mountains in the distance. The river took us through some beautiful scenery and there was plenty of calm water separating the rapids to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views!