Every country will tell you that their whitewater is the biggest and baddest in the world. But for sheer scale, variety and jaw-dropping gorgeousness, the United States probably takes the top honours.
Paddling, or more often, being sucked along the potentially deadly waters of a desolate river gorge may not be everyone’s idea of fun.
But try it once and you’ll find whitewater rafting is more addictive than crack cocaine. Luckily, it’s also more fun.
Every country claims its whitewater is bigger, faster, scarier than the next, but the United States can fairly lay claim to having the largest number of top quality sites and tour organisers. Here’s our favourites:
The Chattooga River, North Carolina
Starts at Whitesides Mountain, deep in “Deliverance” country, and if it wasn’t for the noise of the rapids you could almost hear the duelling banjos. In summer the waters are slower, giving you more time to soak up some of the States’ most evocative scenery.
The Taos Box, Taos, New Mexico
This trip down the spectacular Rio Grande is not for passengers — it’s a tough gig. The claim to be the U.S.’s premier whitewater one-day wilderness trip is a fair one — the scenery and wildlife are amazing. But it’s the build-up through from a relatively calm class III rapid through class IV’s to a huge class V which will leave you gasping.
This being the Grand Canyon you’ll already be overwhelmed by the sheer scale — so it will come as no surprise that this is a minimum three-day trip. The powerful waters of the Colorado River take you to parts of the Canyon that few tourists get to see. Sleep under the stars and get the weird feeling of becoming attuned to the river.
The American River, California
Outside Sacramento the South Fork of the American River flows down the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and offers a blend of relaxing calms and thrilling Class III rapids. It’s a brilliant introduction to the sport.