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Whitewater Rafting Guide

Fun, excitement, challenges, teamwork, and glory. whitewater rafting promises all these and more. In case you aren't familiar with whitewater rafting, it's a water sport where an inflatable raft is used to navigate down a rough river or some other body of water. Since it's done on rough or whitewater of varying degrees, the sport is called whitewater rafting.

An individual or team can participate in this sport and they will be racing against another team. The first person or team whose raft touches the finishing line first is the winner. There goes the glory.

Whitewater rafting is different from other water sports like canoeing, kayaking, or rowing. The differences between whitewater rafting and other water sports will be discussed later in this article.

What Are The Differences Between Kayaking And Rafting? Which One Is Better?

When whitewater rafting and kayaking enthusiasts each other on the water, they sometimes give each other that furtive glance. But it’s just good humour and without resentment. It doesn’t matter if you are on a raft or kayak, the point is to be on the water and have a nice time. A rafter and a kayaker are two people in the same kingdom but in different palaces. I’m trying to be clever here but you get the gist, haha.

While both kayaking and whitewater rafting are both water sports, there are several differences between them. The difference starts from the vessel as kayaks are pointed at both ends and could be feature an open or close design. whitewater rafting, on the other hand, uses an inflatable raft that always has an open design.

The paddles for the two sports are also different. Kayaking uses a double-bladed paddle while paddles for rafting are single-bladed. While a kayak is designed to be used by one person (there are also tandem and 3-person yaks), a raft can accommodate up to ten people and be paddled by up to 9 people (4 on both sides, 1 at the back). However, a raft can be paddled by just two people but the more, the merrier.

Also, whitewater rafting is done on whitewater. Kayaking can be done on calm or whitewater.

Which one is better between rafting and kayaking is a personal choice. If you like to do things alone or feel like being alone, kayaking is perfect for that. But if you are after a truly social experience with several friends or family members, then rafting makes more sense.

Despite the fact that whitewater rafting always takes place on rough water, it may be safer than kayaking. The reason for this is that there are many people involved in the sport making help readily available in case of emergencies.

Rafting also provides more challenges and is more exciting than kayaking. But if you are an experienced kayaker, you can also take on whitewater and feel the rush of adrenaline.

Whichever one you for, the aim remains to have an enjoyable time on the water. Check out our 13 Best Tips for Whitewater Rafting for Beginners.

Whitewater Rafting Guide 1

How Dangerous Is Whitewater Rafting?

Paddling on whitewater seems fun…and dangerous. It’s for this reason that many people are eager to know the inherent risks of whitewater rafting. Fortunately, white water rafting is a safe sport and the most common injury is either sunburn (oh you fiery summer sun) and slips or falls when entering or exiting a raft (wear proper footwear, people).

But just like any other outdoor sports, white water rafting can never be 100% safe. It’s important you carry essential gear and follow safety precautions. Also, you should be honest with yourself about your physical limitations and choose a river appropriate to your level of fitness.

Whitewater rafting is a physically demanding sport and overexertion is a primary danger in the sport. The majority of deaths that occur during rafting is due to heart attacks by people that are out of shape or have poor health. So once again, be honest with yourself about your physical limitations and choose a river appropriate to your level of fitness.

For a more complete overview of safety concerns when whitewater rafting, take a look at our article – Is Whitewater Rafting Safe? An Objective Answer.

Rafting Equipment


The vessel used for the sport.


Other accessories include:

  • PFD/Life Jacket: Important to maintain buoyancy should you end up in the water.
  • Helmets: These are used to prevent head injuries in case of a crash or bump. Choose a helmet that fits your head properly.
  • Paddles: Should be lightweight, easy to use, and cut smoothly through the water.

Also read: What to Wear Whitewater Rafting and Choosing Your Rafting Shoes.

Whitewater Rafting Guide 2

Levels of White Water

There are six grades of difficulty in white water rafting ranging from simple to very dangerous.

Class 1: You’ll find very small rough areas on this type of white water. It’s easy to raft on class 1 water as it requires little to no maneuvering.

Class 2: Rougher than class 1 and may contain very small waves and rocks. Requires a bit of maneuvering.

Class 3: Class 3 whitewater has medium waves and requires more maneuvering than class 2.

Class 4: Requires sharp maneuvering due to the presence of large waves, rocks, and long rapids.

Class 5: Class 5 whitewater has large waves with high volume. They may also have large rocks and drops. It’s more dangerous to raft on this type of whitewater as it requires precise maneuvering.

Class 6: The most dangerous of all, type 6 whitewater can lead to serious injury or drowning and usually contain non-passable rapids.

Whitewater Rafting Guide 3

Where To Go Whitewater Rafting?

In The US

Below are some whitewater rafting destinations in the US:

Arkansas River, Colorado: Featuring more than 100 miles of whitewater as well as scenic views, the Arkansas River is a good place to go rafting.

Deschutes River, Oregon: The 40-mile section from Warm Springs to Maupin on the Deschutes River in Oregon is perfect for whitewater rafting. You also get the chance for several animal sightings!

Salmon River, Idaho: Surrounded by unmatched natural beauty, you get the chance to battle class 3 – 4 rapids for half a day or on a multi-day excursion.

Deer field River, Massachusetts: You get to enjoy the beautiful local landscape while battling class 2 – 4 rapids anytime between April to October.

Colorado River, Utah and Arizona: Experience whitewater rafting like never before as you take in the sight of the famous red rock formations found in Utah or floating your way between towering canyon walls in Arizona as you battle the river rapids.

New River, West Virginia: Considered one of the best whitewater rafting spots in the country, the New River offers different degrees of rapids ranging from relaxing pools to large waves full of exhilarating whitewater.

Outside Of The US

Sjoa River, Norway: Pulling on tourists from all over Europe, the Sjoa river offers stunning scenes while also allowing you to test your whitewater rafting skills on class II-IV rapids.

Rhine River, Switzerland: You get to embark on exciting Class III-IV whitewater adventures on one of the most beautiful stretches of river in Switzerland.

Inn River, Austria: Akin to something of the epicenter of rafting in Europe, the river is populated during the summer months as experience rafters come to challenge their abilities while beginners come to get their first taste of rafting.

Tara River, Montenegro: As one of the last wild rivers of Europe and also one of the longest and deepest river canyon’s in the world, the Tara River offers beautiful waterfalls and scenery as rafters take on class III-IV rapids.

Una River, Croatia: Rafting is increasing in popularity in the small country of Croatia. With the river catering for rafters of different skill levels, the Una river is a fun place to go crafting.

Neretva River, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Natural pristine beauty, adrenaline-inducing moments, and relaxing stretches of wanted makes the Neretva River a wonderful place to go rafting.

Whitewater Rafting Articles

You've always wanted to try whitewater rafting, but you're not sure how. This page is for you! It has all the information you need to get started and enjoy a safe and thrilling ride. You'll find resources on equipment, safety tips, and even instructions on where to find your first trip near you.

So what are you waiting for? Take a look at our detailed guides and get well prepared for your rafting adventure - there will be no more worries or doubts holding you back!