Multi-Day Whitewater Rafting Trips for Beginners
If you’ve never been rafting before, you might be under the misconception that you need to “know how to do it” or it’s only for thrill-seeking adventurers. But the truth is, whitewater rafting is for everyone and you don’t need any prior experience to get out on the river and experience some of the world’s most magnificent wilderness areas.
In this guide, we’ll introduce 3 multi-day rafting trips that are ideal for first-timers, with the perfect combination of fun rapids and spellbinding natural scenery. If you’ve been on a single-day rafting adventure before, these are also great options for your first time overnighting on the river, whether you want the wild experience of camping on remote beaches or the creature comforts of a riverside lodge.
A note on whitewater rafting classifications:
Before launching into our recommended rafting trips for first-timers, it’s important to explain what the whitewater rafting classifications mean. Essentially, they are a means of categorizing stretches of river based on their difficulty and informing rafters of the technical challenges that await.
Class/Grade I rapids feature fast-moving water with small waves and few obstacles, allowing you to really soak up the riverside scenery. Class/Grade V rapids, on the other hand, feature large drops and violent rapids that may continue over long distances. As such, a lot of experience and practical knowledge of rescue skills is required before attempting them. Most of the following recommendations feature Class/Grade II to IV rapids, which lie somewhere in between.
For more information about rapid classifications, check out our blog here.
Deschutes River, Oregon
Snaking its way through central Oregon, the Deschutes has been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and is the ideal introduction for first-time rafters. It’s easily accessible from both Portland and Bend and takes in magnificent natural scenery along its route.
On a Deschutes River rafting adventure, you’ll never be in extremely remote locations, with a road running parallel to the waterway for much of the journey. While this doesn’t detract from the wilderness experience, it also offers peace of mind for those who are a little nervous about being too far from civilization. Added to that, there are pit toilets at most of the campgrounds, so you don’t have to use the groover system if it’s something you feel uncomfortable with.
With the Deschutes River’s water level remaining relatively consistent throughout the year, the rapids are predictable and you won’t encounter any unexpectedly big water. Just upstream from our headquarters in Mapuin, you’ll negotiate fun but friendly Class II and III rapids such as “Trout Creek”, “Four Chutes”, and “Boxcar” while downstream lie “Surf City” and the “Roller Coaster”. It's also here that you’ll experience the thrill of a Class IV rapid at “Oak Springs”.
Most of the rapids on the Deschutes River are termed “pool and drop”, meaning there’s a short rapid followed by a drop into calm water. As a result, there’s lots of recovery time if you do fall out of the raft, and getting wet is all part of the fun of a summer rafting trip. Along the way, there’ll be plenty of time to go swimming and just enjoy the desert surroundings.
Salmon River Canyons, Idaho
Taking in a series of steep-walled gorges, the Lower Salmon River extends from Vinegar Creek to its confluence with the Snake River along Idaho’s border with Oregon. It’s a section of what early navigators romantically dubbed the “River of No Return”, as they were able to travel downstream but couldn’t get back up through the river’s fast-flowing rapids.
The Lower Salmon River is always a firm favorite due to its high-walled canyons, which open out to sprawling beaches where you can camp the night with the sound of the river rushing nearby. There’s always plenty of space to spread out and find a bit of privacy, without having to worry about negotiating rocky shores. At some camps, we’ll even have a game of beach volleyball or frisbee going!
Like the Deschutes River, the Lower Salmon is a “pool and drop” river, with mostly Class II to Class IV rapids. As such, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and gaze in awe at the majestic gorges. That being said, there are a couple of more challenging rapids to keep things interesting, including “Snow Hole” with its tight boulders and turbulent waves, and “China”, which requires some skillful maneuvering.
During our Salmon River Canyons trips, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Native American rock art sites and pioneer homesteads, as well as rock houses built by Chinese gold miners in the 19th century. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, otters, and minks, as well as a diverse array of birdlife such as kingfishers and spotted sandpipers.
Rogue River, Oregon
If it’s the idea of camping that puts you off a multi-day rafting trip, then we have the answer. The Rogue River in southwest Oregon offers all the thrill and adventure of a wilderness whitewater rafting trip but with the comfort of lodge accommodation. It flows from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, taking in lushly forested canyons and intermediate rapids along its way.
Days are spent negotiating the splash rapids and relaxing in quiet pools while observing black bears, river otters, and deer on the shore. Our guides will lead you on hikes to historic homesteads and share with you legends about the river canyon and those who have come before. At the end of each thrilling day, you’ll be treated to the privacy of your own room at cozy riverside lodges where hearty meals are served fireside. Hot showers and flushing toilets come as standard, as does exceptional stargazing at night.
While most of the rapids on the Rogue River are Class II and III, you’ll also encounter the Class IV “Coffee Pot” of Mule Creek Canyon. At “Blossom Bar”, you’ll have to navigate a garden of big boulders, with many believing this to be the Rogue River’s most challenging rapid. Pipping it on the classification scale, however, is the Class V “Rainie Falls”, although most outfitters (including ROW Adventures) don’t run the main falls.
Due to its diversity of rapids and the challenges it presents, the Rogue River is a great option if you’re traveling with a group of rafters with varied experience levels. It’s not too daunting for first-timers and offers plenty of excitement and enjoyment for seasoned rafters.