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Top White Water Kayaking Destinations
Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping like splashing through white water as you paddle your way down a surging river. From east to west, our country if filled with exciting rivers and white-water courses that are just waiting to be explored. So pick your river and grab your paddle!
Salmon River, Idaho
Idaho is famous for its white water, and in a state of superlatives, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is an absolute gem. You can paddle for over 100 miles, dropping more than 3000 feet as you kayak in and out of 100 rapids and pools. What an introduction to the River of No Return Wilderness!
Gauley River, West Virginia
Said by many to be one of the top ten paddling rivers in the world, the Gauley River is legendary. After the Summersville Dam opens in the fall, you can enjoy three weeks of perfect white water as thousands of gallons of water pour down the river every second. You’ll drop 650 feet on your 26-mile kayak trip, dipping in and out of holes, dodging boulders, and riding waves. (56 of the rapids on this run are Class III-V.)
Upper Yough, Maryland
Steep and rugged, this is one of the finest white water rivers in the East. You’ll need to keep your wits about you as you paddle this Class IV-V river, rounding pools and powering through rapids. White water experience is a must on this one!
South Fork American River, California
With two different sections, this scenic river has something for kayakers of all levels. Beginners can tackle the Class II Coloma-Lotus for a fine introduction to white water paddling. More experienced kayakers will prefer the Class III "Chili Bar" and "Gorge" runs. Chili Bar Hole is a hot spot for serious kayakers practicing their best manouevers.
The New River, West Virginia
Dubbed "America's Best Whitewater," this lively river runs through country that’s been called the Grand Canyon of the East. You’ll find the biggest flow in the spring after the snows melt in higher elevations, but even in the height of summer this river is well worth running.
Rogue River, Oregon
Designated as a Wild and Scenic River, the Rogue is a white-water gem. You’ll find warm rapids, terrific wildlife, and beautiful views of the Siskiyou National Forest. You can paddle down 35 miles of white water in the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area.
Chattooga River, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina
This majestic river gets its start in North Carolina’s Whitesides Mountain and cut to the southwest across South Carolina and Georgia. You’ll find plenty of breathtaking scenery and thrilling white water rapids on this Wild and Scenic River.
Russell Fork River, Kentucky
For the biggest white water, put in at Breaks Interstate Park. You’ll have a little time to practice your stroke before you pass the massive outpouring at Flanagan Dam, where the river really picks up speed. You’ll zip through Class III and IV rapids, navigating thin passages and dramatic drops, wrapping it all up at Garden Hole.
Westwater Canyon, Colorado River, Utah
For the perfect mix of thrills and calm, paddle down Westwater Canyon. You’ll have adrenaline-filled moments as you surge down class III and IV rapids, followed by quieter times when you can watch for wildlife and admire the beauty of the canyon walls. This river’s rapids carry enticing names like Funnel Falls, Skull, Sock-It-To-Me and Last Chance.
Nolichucky River, Tennessee
Running through a deep mountain gorge, the Nolichucky offers tremendous scenery and big thrills. The highest drama comes at the beginning when you’ll paddle through serious white water. After that, the river calms down to a class III, letting you admire the scenery.