As the snow melts and the spring showers bring rain, rivers run powerful and quick with tons of water. The increasingly popular activity of whitewater rafting is considered by many to be dangerous—and it can be—but there are many options ranging from slight currents to life-threatening rapids.
Whatever your skill level, if you’re interested in whitewater rafting, there’s a river just right for you. We’ve highlighted 10 of the best whitewater rafting rivers in the world to get you started on your planning.
The Çoruh has been called Turkey’s last remaining wild river and it’s one of the fastest-flowing in the world. The challenging class IV and V rapids, along with the incredible beauty and diverse wildlife, attract rafters and extreme kayakers from all over. Paddling the Çoruh, you’ll float through canyons, past ancient castle ruins and alongside valleys of orchards—with the Kaçkar Mountains as a surreal backdrop.
One of the most popular and diverse rivers in the U.S., the Salmon River flows 425 miles through some of the country’s best preserved wilderness outside of Alaska. The river has it all—from easier routes to challenging rapids and plenty of amazing scenery. Take the alpine river of the Middle Fork through rugged wilderness and into a desert canyon, while keeping an eye out for wildlife like bears.
With water surging from glacier-fed lakes in the high Andes, the Futaleufú River has thrilling rapids to satisfy even the most adventurous rafter, but it also has calm routes for the less advanced paddler. Known for its stunning aqua-colored water, Patagonia’s Futaleufú features stunning mountain views, comfortable river camps and plenty of out-of-water adventure.
This legendary river offers paddlers an eight day trip through rapids that start out easy and build in intensity. Accessible by float plane, highlights of the river excursion include traveling through the remote wilderness of Quebec, paddling by the breathtaking Magpie Falls and perhaps getting a glimpse of the aurora borealis (northern lights) from your campsite.
Cutting through the World Heritage Area of the Tasmanian wilderness, this rafting adventure is both challenging and remote. Known for quickly changing water levels, big rapids and stunning scenery, the Franklin River should be on every expert paddler’s list.
One of the best rafting rivers in the country, the Chattooga has sections for paddlers of any skill level. From lighter class II and III rapids to sections of intense rapids that qualify as class V in the spring, this scenic southwest river is the perfect spot for a rafting trip.
Accessible only by air, this rafting trip is special in more ways than one. Class IV and V rapids guide paddlers through ancient rain forests and past volcanic gorges in the northern area of Queensland. Heavy rain and unbelievable scenery contribute to making this trip one you’ll never forget.
Winding 1,450 miles in total and cutting through one of the seven natural wonders of the world (the Grand Canyon) this river is undoubtedly one of the most popular rafting destinations in the world. The Colorado River offers waters ranging from class I to class V rapids and some of the best side hikes anywhere. Rafting trips through the Grand Canyon range from 3 days to more than 20 days—either way the views and the experience as a whole is said to be magical.
A major tributary of the world-renowned Nile River, the White Nile flows more than 2,000 miles in east Africa. The best spot for rafting along the sprawling river is right as the river leaves Lake Victoria. Though the lake itself is calm, the water just outside breaks into rapids ranging from class II to class V.
The most heart-pounding, exhilarating rafting experience in all of Africa can be found below Victoria Falls, where rapids are plentiful and about half of them are graded class IV. Though this stretch is for experienced paddlers only, the rewards are great—Not only is the view of the falls incredible, but rafters might catch a glimpse of a crocodile, monitor lizard or a hippopotamus along the calm stretches of the river.