The 12 Best Rafting Destinations in America

Because it’s fixing to be one helluva season out there

By Reuben Brody

The 12 Best Rafting Destinations in America
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10 June 2016

Snow in the mountains. Rain along the East Coast all spring long. It’s been a wet one out there, and our nation’s rivers are at full bore.

Know what that means? It’s time to man the rafts and wage some class warfare on America’s best rapids. Fortunately, most of us live within weekend-getaway distance (or even closer) of a great run.

Today, we round up 12 of the best, along with the outfitter that should be leading your mission and a great local brewery for the après. Grab your koozies and life vests.

The Nantahala River
Nantahala, North Carolina

Classes: II-III (lower), IV-V (upper)
Outfitter: Nantahala Outdoor Center
Features: Granite and limestone rocks, verdant surroundings
Brewery: Nantahala Brewing

The Snake River
Jackson, Wyoming

Classes: I-III
Outfitter: Mad River Boat Trips
Features: Views of the Tetons and Yellowstone
Brewery: Roadhouse Brewery

The Colorado River
Utah, Arizona

Classes: I-III
Outfitter: Western River Expeditions
Features: The Grand Freakin’ Canyon, overnighters
Brewery: Grand Canyon Brewing

The Rogue River
Grants Pass, Oregon

Classes: I-V
Outfitter: Northwest Rafting Co
Features: Lush canyons, tons of eagles, osprey and herons, and the outfitter does gourmet dining and overnighters
Brewery: Wild River Brewing and Pizza

The Gauley River
Gauley, West Virginia

Classes: III-V
Outfitter: Gauley River Adventures
Features: 35 miles some of the most difficult chutes in the country, lush forests and the outfitter has nice accommodations
Brewery: Big Timber Brewing Company

The Nenana River
Denali, Alaska

Classes: I-IV
Outfitter: Denali Rafting Adventures
Features: The tallest Mountain in North America, all sorts of animals, extreme conditions
Brewery: Denali Brewing Company

The Kennebec River
The Forks, Maine

Classes: I-III
Outfitter: Northern Outdoors Resort
Features: Great for families: only 12 miles, and it’s hosted by a great resort
Brewery: Kennebec River Brewery

The French Broad
Asheville, North Carolina

Classes: II-IV
Outfitter: French Broad Rafting and Ziplining
Features: Outfitter has a zipline course, the river is lush and swift
Brewery: Burial Beer Co.

The Salmon River
McCall, Idaho

Classes: II-III
Outfitter: OARS
Features: Swimming holes, gourmet meals and overnighters
Brewery: Broken Horn

The Arkansas River
Buena Vista, Colorado

Classes: II-IV
Outfitter: American Adventure Expeditions
Features: Brown Canyon, a variety of trips depending on skill and time, very experienced crew
Brewery: Eddyline Brewery

The Youghiogheny River
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Classes: III-IV
Outfitter: White Water Adventures
Features: Long season (March-Oct), in the fall you get great color, technical river
Brewery: Hitchhiker Brewing Co

The Deerfield River
Florida, Massachusetts

Classes: I-IV
Outfitter: ZOAR
Features: Tailwater makes for a consistent flow, long season (April-Oct) and beautiful canyons
Brewery: Element Brewing Company

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