The Pacific Northwest’s whitewater game is super strong with Idaho’s Snake and Salmon River and Oregon’s Rogue River showing rafting enthusiasts why they’re labeled as “Wild & Scenic.” With so many epic whitewater rapids and adventures to choose from, we know it’s difficult to pick the best rivers to take on.
So we turned to the experts: our very own river guides who live to paddle, love to row and have whitewater frothing their veins. Check out what rapids our ROW Adventures rafting guides think shouldn’t be missed on your next whitewater rafting vacation.
1. Granite Rapids & the Green Room
Idaho’s Snake River is impressive all by itself. Though its flow is checked by a series of dams, it remains a powerful playmate for whitewater enthusiasts. Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, is one of Snake River’s biggest draws with its big waves and rugged rockscapes. In Hells Canyon, rafters find Granite Rapids: one of Hells Canyon’s class IV rapids which pairs an exhilarating big drop with heart-pounding scenery… and the opportunity to take on the legendary “Green Room.” If the conditions are right, the river creates an ocean-worthy wave that curls over the glass tongue leading into **a room-sized crashing wave! Though you might be white-knuckling your paddle, you’ll find yourself completely surrounded by a room of green water.
2. Mule Creek Canyon
Found on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rogue River, Mule Creek Canyon offers a long, continuous stretch of class III rapids. Here, the Rogue’s wild flows are driven between the slot canyon’s steep, narrow walls that taper down to a mere 18 feet from rock wall to rock wall. The funneled river, surrounded by towering basalt walls, makes the perfect brew for the Coffee Pot rapids as well as the notorious Blossom Bar, Jaws and Devil’s Staircase rapids.
3. Eye of the Needle Rapids
This class III rapid sits on the last stretch of the Lower Salmon River—the final rapid before the confluence to the Snake River. Hold your breath for Eye of the Needle’s sharp, turbulent drop that comes together in a wave of adrenaline and frothy water. In river-speak, you might consider the Eye of the Needle the most technical of the Lower Salmon rapids. There’s no better way to say goodbye to the Salmon River than careening through the churning waters and feeling your stomach float like you’re on the final dive of a roller coaster.
4. Velvet Falls
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River, running through the wilds of the Frank Church Wilderness, is a bucket list trip for whitewater enthusiasts for good reason. With continuous heart-pounding rapids (100 rapids in 100 miles is no small feat), hot springs, wildlife, and trout fishing, the Middle Fork has a bit of fun for everyone. Within the first five miles of the Middle Fork, rafters come across Velvet Falls: one of the most notorious rapids on the Middle Fork. Big waves and big holes, speed and brisk water flying in your face make the class IV Velvet Falls an exciting introduction to your Idaho rafting adventure and an ideal whitewater teaser to show you what else the river has in store for you.
5. Wild Sheep Rapids
Booming whitewater awaits those who take on Wild Sheep Rapids, one of Hells Canyon’s biggest rapids. A class IV, Wild Sheep is protected by an assortment of large boulders before funneling into a series of waves and drops that get bigger than big. During the summer, rafters follow the line left and avoid the boat-devouring holes and lateral waves at the bottom. Tackling the longest class IV rapid on the deepest river gorge in North America will definitely leave you with a buzz and awake with a sense of wildness. In September the Snake offers up the biggest flows and hence the biggest whitewater in the entire West!