Top 5 River Rafting Destinations in the World
World’s Greatest Rivers
The world is an amazing place with wild destinations, incredible cultures, and new experiences around every corner. Some of the Earth’s most wonderful experiences are only accessible by turbulent rivers through deep cut ravines and canyons. These are the experiences that leave imprints on the human soul, imprints that will never be forgotten and will shape the rest of your life. The rush of the powerful current beneath you; the blast of the chilly water spraying across your face; the awe of million year old rock formations and grand cliff faces that strip you bear and leave behind the rawness of insignificance; this is the power that lies down the winding giants of the world. For those adventurous enough to brave the untamed world, timeless treasures abound. The following are our top 5 river rafting destinations in the world that will leave you with a sense of wonder and enjoyment.
Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Nestled in the remote Frank Church wilderness of Idaho runs arguably the best river trip in the world. Middle Fork known as “The River of No Return” is a hundred mile stretch of steady rapids, fantastic fishing, and gorgeous vistas. Not to mention hot springs to soak your muscles in after a long day of rowing. The wilderness was once home to the Shoshone-Bannock Native American tribes and still holds their history all along the Salmon. Pictographs adorn rocks in the area telling beautiful stories. Stories of hunting and sacred rites. Evidence of their culture lay scattered among the forested mountain slopes; traces of activity and stone tools tell us about the lives once lived there and are now shared with visitors over a hundred years later. All the antiquities in the area are protected by federal law and are to remain in the vicinity to preserve the rich history.
On this multi-day raft trip you can hike the mountain trails to gain breathtaking vantages, swim in the pristine water, find spectacular holes to fish, and of course, splash down the river through the many class III – V rapids. Thousands of people enjoy the Middle Fork each year, 10,000 to be precise. Permits must be obtained through a lottery as the forest service seeks to preserve one of the United States largest wildernesses. The Middle Fork of the Salmon is truly a river trip to go wild over.
- Guide to the Middle Fork & Main Salmon River, Idaho, 3rd edition$29.95
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The Zambezi River
Simply put, the Zambezi is the best single day rafting trip anywhere in the world. Home to one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River hosts some of the most incredible rapids on Earth. Water that plummets more than 350 feet into a chasm 130 feet wide causes an exhilarating raft ride that jostles the bones. During peak season, four times more water than the volume of the Colorado River pours over the falls. The whole set up is ripe for an epic whitewater experience.
Raft the full day starting at Victoria Falls through 23 big volume rapids and huge pool drops or continue on for a river safari on a multi-day trip. Either way you’ll be greeted by class V rapids that leave you dripping with delight and keep you elated through a roller coaster of water madness. After the first 23, if you continue, while not as huge as the first day, you’ll still enjoy plenty more Class V fun.
All along the gorge wildlife abounds. Rare birds fly overhead, local fisherman hook tiger fish from the river, and crocodiles sun bath on the banks or at least you hope that’s where they all are.
There is simply no place like the Zambezi River anywhere else in the world. Whatever your adventure, adrenaline pounding excitement will drench you to the inner core.
The Grand Canyon
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- Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, 7th edition$30.95
Now here is a river that attracts people from all over the world and is known as a trip of a lifetime. To float the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, you need to book a year in advance. More than 22,000 people traverse the burly deep of the canyon each year. Raft companies and private boaters alike vie for the limited available spots every season, and if you’ve ever been, it’s certainly no surprise why so many people want to experience it.
Some of the tallest canyon walls in the world hover over you like razor sentinels as you wind down the tumultuous Colorado. Aside from class V rapids and plenty of adrenaline pumping waves, the Grand Canyon gives ample opportunities to hike and explore the rich environment. Trek to waterfalls and beautiful swimming holes, explore the remains of cliff dwellings and learn about lost cultures, and camp under the stars on soft sand beneath a hundred thousand stars and more.
People come into the canyon one person and leave changed for life. Part of your soul gets left between the towering red rock and timeless natural habitat. It calls for you to return time and time again.
If you haven’t made the trip yet, don’ t waste your life away dreaming. Put in for your trip of a lifetime and experience the wonder you’ve simply never known.
Brahmaputra (Son of the Creator)
Is it any wonder that the Earth’s mightiest river flows from the glacial waters of the Himalayas? Gorgeous turquoise waters, sandy white beaches, and dense jungle make this river adventure a fantastic experience. And knowing that you’re among the less than 100 people that float this river in any given year adds to the mystique of the Brahmaputra in India.
The Brahmaputra boasts class V+ rapids and many big volume class IV. If you end up going for a swim in these massive swells, no worries, folklore has it that drinking the water of the Brahmaputra gives you the strength of a horse. Then again, even a horse would find these massive waves and drops completely exhausting to navigate in the water.
Soft sands near fresh elephant tracks give the perfect place to rest between days of bucking rapids. A nice hike through the jungle to a waterfall might be just what you need to replenish your energy for the river. If your idea of adventure is about cultures and new people, meeting the local tribes will fill your adventure canteen to overflowing. There is something for everyone on the free-flowing Brahmaputra. Put this one on your bucket list. You’ll be glad you did.
On every list we’ve seen, the Futaleufu ranks as one of the top spots for rafting and kayaking, and for good reason. These gorgeous blue waters in the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile flow into some of the burliest rapids on Earth. If you can pull your eyes away from the crystal-clear water for a moment, you’ll be treated to stunning views of – as the locals say – a landscape painted by God.
This river has some serious whitewater to contend with. Class V+ rapids wait to churn you out. A few stretches of the river can only be run by more experienced paddlers, and even then, experienced guides are known to portage the bigger runs like Zeta and Throne Room.
Terminator is one of the more popular class V rapids on the Futaleufu. This rapid will either send you soaring or send you swimming, possibly both. So, dig deep and let ‘er rip. You dwell on this one too long and she’ll give you a heart attack.
Another thing that makes the Futa a gem is the fishing. Several areas of the big river are practically neglected for fishing. Trout are teeming in these crystalline currents just waiting to be snagged, but don’t expect an easy pull. These fish have fight.
Salween River, China
This lesser known, incredible river should be experienced by everyone. The Salween river meanders through China into Myanmar and along the border of Thailand. Emerald green water cuts through a beautifully steeped landscape of terraced hills and rocky peaks. Large swaths of soft sandy beaches spread out along the bank providing great overnight areas for multi day raft trips.
Beauty, seclusion, and plenty of splashy rapids to keep you entertained, the upper section holds class IV+ runs with plenty of other stuff to keep your spirits high along the way. The section through Myanmar is more mellow offering up the occasional class II or III rapids with elusive class IVs. Floating through these remote tropical jungles of Asia, you’ll see fantastic wildlife and exotic vegetation, enough to warrant an expedition in these wilds.