Western White Water Rafting

The Real Wild West

Exploring our National Parks and Wilderness Areas by River

By Lauren de Remer
Sponsored Article: This content was specially produced for ACE Adventure Resort by O.A.R.S. Whitewater Rafting, the West Coast leader in rafting, sea kayaking and multi-sport adventures.


Regardless of where you live and the scenery surrounding you, escaping to the wilds of the outdoors is alluring to many adventure travelers. It’s a way to explore a new recreational hobby, visit a landmark you’ve only read about in books, or simply to break away from the everyday grind. What better way to experience nature than to visit the pristine rivers of the Wild West? It’s a region that brings to light images of the high mountain ranges of Colorado and Wyoming, the rolling hills of wildflowers in California, redrock canyons in Utah and Arizona, and the lush coastal forests of Oregon. Rafting along the rivers of the West puts you in the heart of it all! A few of the most popular whitewater rafting trips in the Western U.S. include:

The Colorado River through the Grand Canyon

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Stretching 277 miles across northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon ranges in elevation from 2,400 feet to more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Although average daytime highs range from 80-120 degrees between April and November, the water temperature remains between 48 and 53 degrees year-round. Grand Canyon rafting trips typically take 4-18 days in length depending on the time of year and the section of canyon. Rafters may hike up a rocky hillside, visit a lush waterfall, swim in warm turquoise water at the confluence of the Little Colorado, marvel at the torrents of Lava Falls or Crystal Rapid, or relax at the Patio at Deer Creek. Through exploration and spending quality time there, most find the experience to be life changing and unparalleled in the world of travel experiences. People see more of nature in a two-week Grand Canyon rafting trip than most people see in their whole lives, it’s an adventure that reshapes a person from the inside out.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho

Recognized for its Blue Ribbon trout fishing, the Middle Fork offers top-notch Idaho rafting, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and natural hot springs. This is the ultimate alpine river experience for anyone looking to have it all—fast moving rapids and comfortable beach campsites in a secluded wilderness setting between steep canyon walls rolling hills and lush forest. After chasing the sun around every bend and turn, the option to soak in a natural hot spring at the end of the day isn’t so bad either. You may spot elk, deer, black bear or even a mountain goat grazing along the shore. This is the kind of river that makes you want to keep your tent packed away each night in a dry bag so you can sleep under a picturesque, starry sky.

California’s Tuolumne River

At the end of May (or early June, depending on the season), snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range flows down into the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River Canyon just outside of Yosemite National Park in northern California. This creates a world-class stretch of Class IV+ whitewater that is incomparable to any other stretch of whitewater in the state. Water flows on the Tuolumne can reach more than 10,000 cubic feet per second (that’s the equivalent of 10,000 basketballs passing by every second). Tuolumne River Rafting should be on every adrenaline buff’s to-do list. For the rest of the summer, the Tuolumne is recognized as the Champagne river of California whitewater rafting. Its steep, golden hills are forested with oak and pine and flanked by rocky terraces and sandy beaches—a natural habitat for wildlife. Tumbling creeks, waterfalls and glassy pools adorn the river corridor and its side canyons—perfect for hiking, fishing, and swimming during your off-river time. Offered seven months a year, a Tuolumne rafting trip works perfectly into a California vacation to San Francisco, Yosemite or Lake Tahoe.

The Wild and Scenic Rogue River in southern Oregon

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The Rogue offers some of the best rafting in the West mainly because of its scenery, wildlife and moderate whitewater. For the more adventurous, our inflatable kayaks provide an up-close and personal encounter with the rapids of the Rogue. It’s an ideal family rafting adventure that offers easy accessibility from nearby cities such as Portland and San Francisco. You may spot endangered turtles or river otters along the banks, bald eagles or even black bears grazing on the hillside. Water temperatures range from 58 – 70 degrees during the summer months, making swimming and beach games all the more inviting. Side hikes to waterslides and historic sites highlight a journey on the Rogue and in the fall, the river is a fishing hotspot. The Rogue is also a short drive from Mount Shasta, California’s Redwood State Park and Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon.

The Green River through the Gates of Lodore

The Green River in Dinosaur National Monument is another excellent family rafting trip. The river is located near Vernal, Utah on the Colorado border and offers redrock scenery comparable to the Grand Canyon. However, unlike the Colorado, the Green River has warm, friendly water to play in—ideal conditions for inflatable kayaks and spontaneous water fights. Most Green River rafting trips run about 4 days in length and offer a more affordable alternative to trips in the Grand Canyon. What many may also find surprising about this river is that even though it’s a desert climate, it’s a much more heavily forested canyon with emerald evergreen and cottonwood trees lining the banks. At the end of the day, an adventure on the Green River is much more than just rafting—explore ancient petroglyphs and old cattle rustler hideouts, enjoy savory feasts prepared by your guides and camp beneath a star-filled cowboy country sky.

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