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White Water Rafting in the Pacific Northwest

Updated on January 15, 2011

White Water Rafting In The Northwest

The Pacific Northwest offers amazing white water rafting opportunities in Washington,Idaho, and Oregon. There are hundreds of local outfitters that provide accommodations for experiences ranging from slow family trips to extremely challenging rivers. The large variety of trip lengths, scenery, and difficulty levels make the PNW one of the best areas in the world for those who enjoy white water and the outdoors. Once you choose a river trip that appeals to you, all that is left is to choose an outfitter that suits your budget and calender.

I have put together a list of my favorite Northwest rivers by state.

A group of rafters in the Black Canyon area of the Methow River.
A group of rafters in the Black Canyon area of the Methow River.


Green River:

This river is located only an hour from Seattle. It is known for its beautiful canyons full of lush flora including an area known as the "hanging gardens". I have rafted this river twice, both times in the Spring. The water ranges from class III to class IV and large boulders make for a fairly technical run.

Methow River:

Located in Eastern Washington near Lake Chelan, this river is known for its great runs and wavy-train style waves. The river offers long runs and is typically a class III to class IV run. Black Canyon rapid can be challenging, featuring a long run along a sharp corner with giant holes and boulders to avoid. The weather in the spring is also great which makes this river a fantastic run.

Sauk River:

The Sauk is my personal Northwest favorite, due partly to the fact that it is so accessible from where I live. It is nestled up in the foothills of the cascades and while the water temperatures are very cold, the scenery can't be beat. This river is certainly the Northwest's "best kept secret". The Sauk can be ran at a wide range of water levels, but the technical aspect of the river remains the same as it is a smaller river with many rocks. At most water levels this river is considered class III to class IV.

Wenatchee River:

Considered the most popular river to run in the state, the Wenatchee offers a variety of water that suits a wide range of skill levels. It is located near Leavenworth, WA and actually runs right through town. The 20 mile stretch of river is usually run in the Spring to Summer, and the water is usually considered to be class II to class IV with low technicality.

Rafting the Main fork of the Salmon River in July, 2008.
Rafting the Main fork of the Salmon River in July, 2008.


Salmon River (Main, Middle, and Lower forks):

The Salmon river actually consists of three different rivers: the Main Salmon, Middle Salmon, and Lower Salmon. Each river offers excellent white water as well as scenery, not to mention weather. They are usually run in the late Spring or Summer when temperatures hover around the 100's. Common overnight trips can run from 5 to 8 days long. I have run all each of these rivers multiple times and they all offer a very unique experiences. The white water on the Main is of the "pool and drop" nature, meaning there are large class IV rapids but the river tends to slow down after giving you time to gather yourself before moving on. The Lower Salmon is similar to the Main in the pool and drop sense and they also share some of the same rolling hills and jagged rock scenery. The Middle Salmon starts up at high altitude and drops around 2800 ft throughout the course of the trip. My favorite part about the Middle fork trip is the transition through a total of 4 different ecosystems. Starting in the high mountains and ending in the lowlands, it was a trip I will never forget. The fishing was also excellent, an abundance of large trout and bass kept my time occupied during the slower stretches of river.

Snake River:

The Snake river presents one of the premier white water rivers in North America. It runs through Hell's Canyon, the deepest gorge in America. This trip is truly special because of its scenery and white water. The Snake river contains mostly class II to class IV rapids and is considered to be for advanced skill levels especially at high water levels. There are many guide services that run the Snake and if you get the chance to run it don't turn it down!


Rogue River:

The Rogue river in Oregon is a great trip through a small canyon carved out through jagged landscape and lava rock. The trips are usually 3 to 4 days long and can include lodging overnight at various ranches along the way. The river is very wild and rapids can be in the class IV range depending on the water level. This river is best run in the Summer and early Fall seasons.

Deschutes River:

This river trip is a must for rafters who also enjoy fishing. I personally really enjoy bass fishing and I remember this river fondly because the small mouth bass were so large and plentiful. You can run the river from April till October, and it is the most popular river to raft in Oregon. Another thing that I remember about the Deschutes, however not as fondly as fishing, was the wide variety of snakes that kept us company both on the water and in our camps! The rapids on the Deschutes were medium to large class III. Other than a few rapids, the river is generally calm so it is great for families and fishermen alike. The water in the Deschutes is very warm so wetsuits and cold gear is not usually needed.

White water rafting in the PNW offers a unique experience for all to enjoy. The excellent variety of both scenery and water difficulty makes northwest rivers great for a day trip, a weekend getaway, or even an 8 day long trek in the wilderness. If you would like to experience the northwest outdoors in a way that you will never forget, I encourage you to look into booking a trip with a local outfitting group. Trips are very flexible and affordable so there is no reason to wait, begin enjoying the outdoors today!

And oh ya....White Water!


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    • reidrichardson profile image


      7 years ago from St. Pete Beach

      Wow that looks like a blast! I'd love to give that a shot someday.

    • wsupaul88 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks for the comment Peggy! It sounds like you have been on some amazing trips in the Northwest to!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      My mother, niece and I enjoyed a whitewater rafting trip while staying in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Loved it! Took a jet boat ride on the Rogue river...another interesting adventure. You are fortunate to have been able to enjoy so many white water rafting adventures in the Pacific Northwest which has such gorgeous scenery. Nice hub!

    • wsupaul88 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I have heard wonderful things about the South Payette and I look forward to running it someday! Thank you for your suggestions!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great list of rivers. If you have not checked out the south fork of the Payette in Idaho I would highly recommend it as well as the North Umpqua River in Oregon. I think the N. Umpqua has to be one of the most scenic day trips in the state.

    • wsupaul88 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thank you! I have never been on the Illinois or the Wind but from what I have found online they look like fun. Hopefully someday I'll get a chance to check 'em out!

    • profile image

      Zachary Collier 

      7 years ago

      Great list. If it was my list, I I'd add the Illinois River in Southern Oregon and the Wind River in Washington.


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