The 7 Top River Rafting Excursions in Ski Country

25th April 2017 | Tess Weaver

News Regions: Banff, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Lake Tahoe Summer, Mt. Bachelor, Sun Valley, Vail Valley

Resorts in this article: Big Sky Resort, Jackson Hole, Mt. Bachelor, Sun Valley

Big Eddy river - ©Sun Country Tours

The Big Eddy river suplies big fun for those looking for Class III rapids.

Copyright: Sun Country Tours

Whether you’re rowing your own boat on a multi-day adventure or paddling a raft with five strangers for a half-day float, whitewater rafting offers an adrenalin-packed adventure. For scenic and exciting rivers, look no further than your favorite ski town.  

1. Deschutes River

Bend, Oregon

The most popular run near Bend, Big Eddy is a Class III rapid on the Upper Deschutes River. Sun Country Tours' Big Eddy Thriller puts in at the old logging camp of Aspen. You’ll paddle through scenic flatwater lined with towering Ponderosa pines and dramatic lava flows as you ease into some Class I and II rapids. Things get more exciting with Class III rapids like Kenmore (think washing machine) and Roller Coaster. Luckily, on river left, there is a large eddy to scout the upcoming rapids.  

2. Snake River

Jackson, Wyoming

The Snake River threads through Jackson Hole from its headwater in Yellowstone to the mouth of the Snake River Canyon. The infamous Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter rapids prove the pinnacle of any float trip on the Snake River. In early June, Lunch Counter’s waves can reach nine feet in height. Sands Whitewater’s most-popular trip includes eight miles of scenic flatwater and wildlife spotting followed by eight miles of exciting whitewater. 

3. Salmon River

Stanley, Idaho

North of Sun Valley about 60 miles, the historic town of Stanley is the gateway to Idaho’s famous Salmon River, which carves a spectacular canyon through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, the second largest protected wilderness in the contiguous United States. On the River Company’s six-hour trip, you’ll paddle Class II and III rapids like the Warm Springs Narrows, a .34-mile long stretch of exciting whitewater.  

4. Clark Fork River

Missoula, Montana

The Clark Fork River, which flows through the heart of Missoula, boasts Montana’s best whitewater rafting. The Clark Fork cuts through a deep, scenic canyon and offers Class II-III thrills, including fun wave trains. Montana River Guides lead four-hour trips through 12 scenic miles.   

5. Arkansas River

Vail, Colorado

The legendary Gore Canyon offers five miles of intense Class V whitewater.  - ©Timberline Tours

The legendary Gore Canyon offers five miles of intense Class V whitewater.

Copyright: Timberline Tours

The headwaters of the Arkansas River, the Class IV “Numbers” is one of the most difficult sections of commercially rafted river in Colorado. With tight channels and steep drops, the Numbers offers non-stop action. With views of numerous 14,000-foot peaks, the run is a Colorado high country classic. One of the oldest outfitters in Colorado, Vail-based Timberline Tours, offers a dozen different river trips in the area, from family-friendly trips on the Upper Colorado to Class V Gore Canyon, a legendary five-mile stretch of intense whitewater including three waterfalls.  

6. American River

Truckee, California 

The American River’s three forks rise in the High Sierra, just west of Lake Tahoe and the Pacific Crest, and flow west to merge with the Sacramento River. The 21-mile section between Placerville (starting at Chili Bar) and Salmon Falls (Folsom Reservoir) offers true whitewater adventure. The Middle Fork of the American River is rated Class IV-V thanks to rapids such as the infamous "Tunnel Chute," which was formed when miners blasted granite rock to find gold. Not for the faint of heart (or those wanting to stay dry).  

7. Kicking Horse River

Golden, BC

The Kicking Horse River offers some of the most-challenging Class III-IV whitewater in Canada - ©Alpine Rafting

The Kicking Horse River offers some of the most-challenging Class III-IV whitewater in Canada

Copyright: Alpine Rafting

Recognized as a Canadian Heritage River, British Columbia's Kicking Horse River descends from the ice fields of the Canadian Rockies, slows briefly into a broad, U-shaped valley, then plunges wildly to its Columbia River confluence. Launching in Yoho National Park (an easy day excursion from Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Radium or Revelstoke), Alpine Rafting’s Kicking Horse River Challenge serves up 22 miles of Class III-IV whitewater through the Middle and Lower Canyons.   

 

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