Top 10 White Water Rafting Runs in the Northern Hemisphere

Best Rivers to Raft in the North

Joe

|July 22, 2019

Joe is a proud Michigander that finds himself in unusual, beautiful, and faraway places. He enjoys getting lost, drinking with strangers, and worshipping at the church of rock ‘n’ roll.


Forget the Earth’s bottom half. From the glacial runaways to the canyon-carving choppers, totally the wildest Northern white water rafting you can find on the upside of the Equator. No crocs, no hippos. Just you, your friends, and a rubber raft facing down Mother Nature’s river-fed fury.


There's nothing boring about these full-on, face-melting torrents! These whitewater rafting trips are all Class IV and up, all at least a full day long, and all guaranteed to leave you craving more adventure.

1. Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers, Canada & Alaska

People are rafting in Canada

Alsek River rafting, Canada

Two rivers for the low, low price of one! Beginning in the Yukon and upper British Columbia, the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers cut their way through Canada’s untouched North.

The Tashenshini River, rated Class III and IV in the upper reaches, twists through canyons before entering “Quiet Canyon.” Here it widens out to scenic views and glacial ice flows.

Put-in at Dalton Post, Yukon and cross into British Columbia and Alaska on your 11-day Tatshenshini-Alsek river rafting trip. Glimpse grizzlies, bald eagles, spawning salmon, Mt. Fairweather, Walker Glacier, and icy Alsek Lake on the way.

2. Jökulsá-Austari (East Glacial River), Iceland

Jokulsa Austari Rafting Activity In Iceland

Rafting the Jokulsa Austari, Iceland

The Jökulsá-Austari or East Glacial River cuts through North Iceland’s off-world, alien landscape. The glowing blue waters flow from Iceland’s third-biggest glacier, Hofsjökull Glacier, as it cuts its way through the black volcanic rock and winding canyons.

Slam into rapids named the Screaming Lady, Alarm Clock, and the 3-tiered Green Room as you paddle into a new frontier down the northernmost white water in the world.

3. Middle Fork, Salmon River, Idaho

Rafting in Salmon River, Canada

Rafting on the Salmon River, Idaho

A radical 104-mile tributary of the Salmon River in Central Idaho. The Middle Fork is home to over 300 different rapids with names straight from a Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze movie: Power House, Sulphur Slide, Velvet Falls, Pistol Creek, the Chutes and Devil’s Tooth.

The river’s rapids range from Class III+ on the lower end, all the way up to the Class V at Dagger Falls. Six natural hot springs make perfect breaks as you continue down the 3,100-foot drop of a rollercoaster ride called the Middle Fork.

4. Magpie River, Quebec, Canada

Rafting Activity In Magpie River, Quebec, Canada

Rafting the Magpie River, Quebec, Canada

The Magpie River flows from the Labrador Plateau to the Saint Lawrence River in French Canada. Raft rides begin from Lake Magpie and charge into Class III and IV rapids almost immediately.

It’s one of the hands-down prettiest rivers out there, thanks to its remote location and the surrounding ancient forest.

Mid-river islands, whirlpools, the Picket Fence rapids, and the famous George Camp make this a must-do downstream to be explored again and again.

Find your Deliverance in the wilds of Quebec.

5. Colorado River, The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Colorado River In the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Rafting through the Grand Canyon — need I go on? Hop on a multi-day trip and cruise down the center of one the world’s most jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, red, breathtaking natural wonders.

That’s 225 miles of running white water and red-orange cliffs! Spend anywhere from 1 to 13 days exploring the basin, start at Lake Powell and end at Lake Mead.

Because it’s so popular, you’ll need to book at least a year in advance. It’s white water rafting down the Grand Canyon — come on!

6. Chilko, Chilcotin, and Fraser Rivers, British Columbia, Canada

Rafting in Fraser River Canada British Columbia

Rafting the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada

Book yourself a one-way ticket to wild! Another river formed by ancient volcanic activity, the Chilko is a 47-mile (75-kilometer) long stretch of river chugging Northeast from Chilko Lake to the Chilcotin River.

This is the longest continuous stretch of navigable Class IV white water in North America. The wave trains are relentless through Lava Canyon, a 14-mile stretch of lava gorges.

Run the “Gap,” a 20-foot wide rock chute, tackle Big Creek rapids, and blunder down Big John Canyon. All aboard!

7. Noce River, Italy

Rafting in Noce river, Italy

Rafting the Noce River, Italy

Arguably one of the best white water runs in mainland Europe, the Noce is the only serious piece of fast water with legitimate vineyards hugging its shoreline.

The rapids plummet down near the mountain of Corno Del Tre Signori. Jump in at Cusiano and follow the river down its three acts to the basin of Lake Santa Giustina.

These are mostly Class II and III rapids, jumping up to Class IV in some areas. A 100-meter stretch of Class V called I Tre Passaggi makes for the perfect crescendo to an authentic Italian holiday. Bravo!

Tip! Plan your holidays to hit the Noce on a weekday — the flow lowers on the weekends when the local hydroelectric plant closes.

8. Tuolumne River, California

Rafting on Tuolumne River, California, USA

Rafting on the Tuolumne River, California

Ride up the one-twenty and snag a ride on “The T.” Flowing for 149 miles in Central California, beginning high up in the mountains of Yosemite National Park and running down into the San Joaquin River.

The Tuolumne (too-all-uh-me) has plenty of Class III-IV+ rapids and a few Class V or V+. 

The most famous is Clavey Falls, the longest being Grey’s Grindstone, and the most popular, Cherry Creek. Get stoked and shred some bomb churners on this stellar cruise. 

9. Arkansas River, Colorado

Rafting on Arkansas River, Colorado

Arkansas River, Colorado

Are you a die-hard fan of river rafting? Do you wear Patagonia and have a hydroflask buckled to your mountain bike? White water rafting in Colorado is definitely for you!

The mecca of Colorado rafting is the Arkansas River. Falling 5,000 feet in 125 miles, the Arkansas is no joke, but it’s the most popular and the easiest to get to on this list.

Not far from Denver, the river begins high up in the Rocky Mountains going from chill to anxiety-inducing through Browns Canyon.

Rip through Bighorn Sheep Canyon and Royal Gorge or go head-on into hell in through the Numbers, a Class IV-V stretch of gnarly Colorado white water.

Check out the Royal Gorge Bridge while you in area, a dope buena vista sky-high above the churning rapids below. Woah-dude!

10. Burnside River, Nunavut, Canada

Rafting on Burnside river, Nunavut, Canada

Rafting on the Burnside River, Nunavut, Canada

Something a bit different and seriously, really, like very far out there is a rafting trip down the Burnside River in Nunavut, Canada.

Beginning in Contwoyoto lake, the Burnside flows north into Lake Kathawachaga, then carves through permafrost and wide-open Arctic tundra on its way to Bathurst Inlet and the Arctic Ocean.

Called the “Wildlife River” for the abundance of caribou, Arctic wolves, grizzlies, muskox, bald eagles, hawks, falcons, trout, whitefish, and so on, this river is as remote as remote gets.

While not as rough as the previous rivers, continuous white water still flows but takes a back seat to the sheer vastness of the land and sky. Far, far away — nothing quite like it.

 

Forget the lakes and the lazy rivers, leave your beach chairs behind and throw yourself down some roaring white water!

Check out our bestselling rafting adventures in Iceland!