It is difficult to make a list of the best rivers for whitewater rafting. However, when you are looking for adventure in the outdoors, you need to take into account various factors such as the difficulty grade of the rapids – grades four and five being difficult, and grade six being impossible, the scenic beauty along the river, and the cultural sights and locations on camping grounds as you negotiate the rapids. Keeping these various factors in mind, some of the best rivers for whitewater rafting in the world are:
- Sun Kosi River, Nepal
The Sun Kosi literally means river of gold and provides a unique experience for whitewater rafting. The waters of the Kosi emerge from the world’s highest mountain in various tributaries. The river is vast and provides a boiling, roiling, crashing waves and water experience during the monsoons. Another specialty of the river is the fact that while most rivers slow down toward the end, the Sun Kosi reserves it’s most dangerous and exciting rapids for the end of the trip.
The narrow canyons and gorges make for a truly thrilling ride down the rapids. During the 10-day trip down the Sun Kosi you can experience various aspects of Nepal from serene and colorful villages that reflect authentic Nepalese life to woods and jungles that connect you to nature in multiple ways.
- The Zambezi River, Africa
Whitewater rafting along the rapids of the mighty Zambezi will let you enjoy the thrill of adventure as well as the warmth and sights of Africa and its wildlife. The seven-day trip begins below the Victoria Falls at the Batoka Gorge, an experience that is perhaps unparalleled in this world. Further along the course you will encounter various rapids that are aptly named Devil’s Toilet Bowl, Stairway to Heaven, Oblivion, Washing Machine, and Boiling Point.
Apart from having to battle the force of the river, this whitewater rafting trip will also add to your thrill as you will encounter crocodiles as well. The river bank teams with the large animals that are part of Africa’s landscape, ensuring that you can take in the best of Africa’s natural landscape as your raft down the Zambezi. The heat and warmth of Africa and the force of the waters of the Zambezi combined with the strength of the rapids makes for a memorable journey through a continent worth exploring by any adventure seeker.
- Franklin River, Tasmania
A different whitewater rafting experience is provided by the Franklin River, Tasmania. The waters are brown from tannin and the river has an endless energy that enthralls the rafter. The moods of the river and the rafters change with the weather – sometimes it rains and is cold, and one has to find the strength to combat the misery, sometimes it is sunny and the river rises and the rapids are strong, testing your endurance and getting your adrenalin pumping, sometimes the river is serene and you can float along with a platypus for company.
The river and the rafting put you through your paces and take you from misery to peace within a few days. The whitewater rafting trip ends at the confluence of the Franklin with the Gordon. This trip is best attempted in the summer, around December in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Futaleufu River, Chile
The Futaleufu River in Chile is known for its many grade five rapids that are a delight to those who love a challenge when they go whitewater rafting. The settings for the rapids are magical and almost unbelievable in their variety. This Patagonian River has not been dammed, making for great scenic beauty along the multiple day trip. The Earth River company that guides the rafters along this river has built permanent camps on the banks that are worth the trip by themselves.
The camps are built as cliff dwellings, tree houses, and so on and come with hot tubs, showers, and beds. The best time to go here is in February. If you want a break from the rafting and rapids, you can always switch to horseback riding and trekking on the trails that follow the river path. The river itself is very colorful as it mines the mineral wealth of the Patagonian Andes. The waters of the river change color from teal to turquoise.
- Alsek River, British Columbia, Canada
The Alsek has many grade five rapids but looks deceptively calm. It drains from the largest non-Polar ice fields in the world. The 140-mile river stretch is surrounded by high glaciers and natural parks, adding to the scenic beauty of the trip. The river is massive with a high volume of water carried at a rapid pace. The waters are close to the freezing point so dry suits are mandatory. Otherwise a flip of the raft can lead to your body being frozen.
The excitement and thrill of the rapids is enhanced by the stretch that travels through the Kluane National Park, home to the largest concentration of grizzlies in North America. Apart from this you will encounter the Turnback Canyon, a grade six rapids that involves portage by helicopter. The trip takes 12 days and you should plan for a June trip to enjoy it the most.
The Planet Earth is Amazing
Though there are many marvelous and fabulous rivers for whitewater rafting, some of them such as the Colorado in the US or the Middle Fork slice on the American River in Northern California, these rivers combine a superior rafting experience on grade four and five rapids with scenic and natural wonders on their banks.
The crocodiles in the Zambezi and the grizzlies on the banks of the Alsek River add to the adrenalin rush even as you negotiate difficult and challenging rapids. Whitewater rafting on the rapids of these rivers provides an opportunity to test not only your rafting skills but enables you to explore other wonders of the natural world. This enhances the whitewater rafting experience and adds to the thrill of the journey, conquering large rivers with boiling, roiling, tumbling waters that showcase the strength of the river.