The Most Dangerous Whitewater Rapids

From North America to Africa, these rapids are insanely challenging and occasionally deadly

Greg Von Doersten / Red Bull Content Pool

Most paddlers make their way to Class III and IV rapids and enjoy the thrill without incident, but there are a few extreme thrill seekers who just can’t help but try to take on the most wild, explosive and, ultimately, dangerous rapids.

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of conquering Class V rapids or plunging off a waterfall into a pool below, but there comes a point when the excitement turns to danger. It’s imperative in whitewater paddling to know your limits and to know what’s ahead.

From North America to Africa, there are no shortage of dangerous rapids. Kayakers wind their way through the narrow chutes of Dipper Creek and rafters paddle from beneath Victoria Falls—one of the seven wonders of the world.

There are many dangerous rapids out there, plenty of deadly waters and insanely challenging routes. We’ve highlighted 9 of the most dangerous rapids from around the globe.

Celestial Falls—White River, Oregon

Popular with daredevil paddlers back in the day, these Class VI rapids (described as extreme and exploratory) are now legally off-limits to kayakers. Park officials closed the 50-foot-high falls to kayakers for safety reasons, but the upper river still delivers some great thrills with class III to IV rapids.

Victoria Falls—The Zambezi River, Zimbabwe/ Zambia

Regularly called the wildest one-day whitewater trip in the world, you’ll begin by paddling out from under the mist of Victoria Falls—one of the seven natural wonders of the world. From there, you’ll take on some of the most notable Class V rapids anywhere—Stairway to Heaven, Devil’s Toilet Bowl and Commercial Suicide, just to name a few. This adrenaline-packed thrill ride is one you won’t soon forget.

7 other Dangerous Whitewater Rapids


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