Travel Blog

California White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting in CaliforniaThere are many locations were you can try your hand at White Water rafting in California. We have listed a number of California White Water rafting locations and provided a short description of each. White water rafting can be a lot of fun for all types of people and with a variety of skill levels. California White Water rafting rapids, like all white water rafting  has all of the rapids classified into classes so that you know what you are getting into and outfitter can match their customers to the type of rapids they offer.

For example you do not want to be on a Class IV rapids when you can barley swim or do not have the stamina to paddle and navigate a rough set of rapids. Generally all outfitters will offer a variety of rapids to traverse that will accommodate the beginners as well as the technical experts.

California White Water Rafting

The South Fork of the American: This is the most popular whitewater rafting trip in California because it has lots of Class III+ rapids, a long rafting season, and is relatively safe. Spring, Summer and Fall. This California White Water rafting location offers trips and river fun for the novices, the experts as well as the thrill seekers.  Rafting enthusiasts can also arrange for trips ranging from half day trips to two-day trips with experienced guides. The South Fork of the American is just a short drive from Sacramento.

The Middle Fork of the American:The land around the Middle fork of the American river is privately owned, yet the river is open to everyone and there are numerous areas that can be enjoyed along this portion of the river. This portion of the river provides a variety of boating challenges for experienced boaters and expert boaters.

The North Fork of the American: Steep Class IV rapids in a tight gorge with crystal clear water makes this California White Water rafting river a challenge. This is the premier class IV trip on the American River. This makes a great whitewater rafting trip in California for those of you that want a technical challenge. This section of the river is really for experts only. During the Summer, the flows are often too low for rafting, and this portion of the river becomes a great place for hiking with demanding canyon trails and cool swimming holes for resting.

The Tuolumne:

This river is the cream of the crop with famous Class IV rapids and “Wild and Scenic” scenery. Located near Yosemite National Park, most of the river takes advantage of the great hikes and spectacular scenery by spending a night or two in the canyon. Spring flows from the snow melt are fierce and challenging for even the most experienced rafter. During the summer there is just enough water to negotiate the river. This California White Water rafting river changes from being scary and dangerous to being a technical challenge for experienced rafters.

The Cal Salmon: This California whitewater rafting trip is for those of you that are hooked. Near the California-Oregon border, this river is well worth the drive for the numerous Class IV rapids and three famous Class V rapids. You’ll set up a base camp as you explore different sections of this river. Spring only. The Cal Salmon has many Class IV rapids and includes three challenging Class V rapids. The water is clear and the beauty of the bedrock canyon is stunning. Additionally, this run is a long drive from California’s population centers so it is rarely crowded.

Forks of the Kern: This three-day trip has over 40 Class IV rapids and 3 big Class V’s. Granite boulders, breathtaking vistas, and huge waterfalls make this a New Rafting River whitewaterspectacular rafting trip. You’ll have to hike two miles into the put-in and warm-up on some other class IV rivers first, though. Spring only.

This 22 mile rafting trip features huge Class V drops and continuous Class IV whitewater framed by some of the most spectacular canyon scenery in the west. Space is limited and trips fill early.

The Forks of the Kern originates near Mt. Whitney in the Golden Trout Wilderness. It is much more strenuous than other river trips and guests should be in good shape.  The canyon is steep and remote. Horses and mules are needed to carry rafts to the river. Guides and guests must hike the 2.5 miles to put-in carrying their own gear.

Truckee River Rafting near Lake Tahoe

This white water rafting trip on the Truckee River is the closest rafting to Lake Tahoe and Reno. It is a fun and exciting, 7-mile guided white water adventure, with many Class 2-3 rapids for the first 6 miles and exciting Class 3+ rapids in the last mile. This whitewater rafting trip on the Truckee River should not be confused with the self-guided float out of Tahoe City. Truckee River Whitewater Rafting trips operate from mid-May to September 30th. As water is obtained from several reservoirs and not just Lake Tahoe, this rafting trip is always available, even when the raft rentals are closed.

Upper Klamath California White Water Rafting

The Upper Klamath River is one of the best Class 4 whitewater rivers for the summer . The only “big water” summer run, with the longest rapids in the west. It is relatively uncrowded due to its location and definitely well worth the trip. The river warms up with nearly 6 miles of Class 3 rapids before tackling the big stuff. The gradient changes, and the next 6 miles offers some wild whitewater with the Class 4+ Caldera (200 yards) and Hells Corner (400 yards) being the highlights. The rapids are long and the water big.

Lower Klamath

The Lower Klamath River is an ideal multi-day white water rafting trip for families and first timers. It is an easier trip than the South Fork American River, and in a more remote setting. However, with the addition of inflatable kayaks, there can be more than enough excitement for older children. Or more experienced river runners. There are many fun whitewater rapids such as Kanaka Falls (or Rattlesnake), Devil’s Toe Nail, the Trench. Also Dragon’s Tooth, Osprey, and Sasquatch Squeeze. The Klamath River has large sandy beaches for camping and play and its waters are warm compared to most other California streams.

North Fork Yuba River

Rafting on the North Fork Yuba River offers both veterans and active first-timers, a variety of Class 3 – Class 5 whitewater thrills, from  1 – 4 days, on over 35 miles of river. Even at lower flows, the North Fork Yuba River still offers exciting rafting in smaller boats.


If you are planning to take part in a California White Water rafting experience, check out the outfitter for safety and how they maintain their equipment. If you are a first timer, you do not want to be going on a difficult set of rapids. It is preferable to build up to the various levels as you gain experience and stamina. You will also become more knowledgeable with the skills required at various levels of California White Water rafting.

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