Wild (And Fun) Rivers If You Want To Challenge The White Water, The Inland Northwest Offers Plenty Of Close-By Opportunities For All Types Of Enthusiasts
Whether you prefer a wet and wild boating thrill or a peaceful float, you can find it on thousands of miles of rivers around the Inland Northwest. Your choice of watercraft can be a kayak, canoe, raft or jet boat.
One of the best ways to enjoy a white-water adventure, especially if you’re a beginner, is with a qualified outfitter and guide. There are hundreds of companies from which to choose (see a list of associations elsewhere in this section).
Before booking a river trip, you should decide on the level of adventure and type of trip you wish to take. Not all white-water adventures are white-knuckled. Some companies specialize in gentler tours for seniors, and many trips also are suitable for children.
Running the rivers is not only fun but also educational, because river guides are knowledgeable about the natural history of the canyons. In between bouts of dodging spray and bouncing over waves, your guide can relate the geology and pioneer history of the river and identify flora and fauna along the way.
Most outfitters can combine your river adventure with a horseback trip, biking tour or backpacking trek. Float-trip rates vary greatly, depending on the type of craft, stretch of river, type of overnight accommodations, shuttle services and on-river services such as meals. Group discounts are generally available. When making a reservation, be sure to indicate any special dietary needs or physical disabilities.
Here are some selected rivers and possible river guide choices for your next whitewater adventure:
Idaho has over 3,000 miles of white water, more than any other state in the continental United States. The Salmon River was dubbed “The River of No Return” by Lewis and Clark, and it remains one of the few undammed waterways in America. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River in central Idaho is the state’s most famous stretch for whitewater action because it has 100 rapids in 100 miles.
River Odysseys West (ROW) is based in Coeur d’Alene and offers adventure travel options ranging from rafting trips on Idaho rivers to the Amazon River in Brazil. ROW specializes in family sojourns and accepts children as young as 4 on some trips. Depending on river choice and day of week for departure, full-day trips can start as low as $73. Three-day packages can start at $610. Call (800) 451-6034 or (208) 765-0841.
Beamer’s Hells Canyon Tours is based near Lewiston. The company operates jet boat service on the Snake River, which flows through Hells Canyon. Its most popular trip is the Hells Canyon End of Navigation Tour for $90, which is available May to October. The unique Mail Box Run (the company delivers U.S. mail along the river) is $215 for a Wednesday-Thursday overnight trip. Call (800) 522-6966.
Epley’s Whitewater Adventures is based at Riggins, Idaho. The price for a half-day trip - on what is often called the most exciting 10 miles of the Salmon River - starts at $30. A full-day trip offers 20 miles of river fun and starts at $55. Call (800) 233-1813 or (208) 628-3533.
One of the state’s most popular rafting rivers is the Flathead, which forms the southern boundary of Glacier National Park.
Four local companies offer white-water rafting trips on the Flathead. The average fee for a half-day trip is $32 for adults. A full-day trip includes a barbecue lunch and costs about $62.
Great Northern Whitewater & Chalets, (800) 735-7897 (outside Montana) or (800) 535-0303 (inside Montana).
Glacier Raft Co., (800) 332-9995 or (406) 888-5454.
Montana Raft Co., (800) 521-RAFT.
Wild River Adventures, (800) 826-2724.
The Wenatchee, Methow, Skagit and Skykomish are a few of the popular fast-water rivers in the Cascades. But one of the most overlooked areas is the Olympic Peninsula. The Elwha and Hoh rivers are hidden treasures for white-water action.
AllRivers Adventures, based in Leavenworth, offers mild to wild rafting on eight Northwest rivers. Prices for a full-day trip range from $59-$69. Call (800) 743-5628.
Alpine Adventures, based in Leavenworth, offers white-water rafting and scenic float trips. Prices start at $70. Call (800) 926-RAFT.
Olympic Raft & Guide Service is based in Port Angeles and provides guided whitewater and scenic float trips on the Elwha and Hoh rivers. Prices start at $35. (360) 452-1443.
Alberta’s Kananaskis Country and the Canadian Rockies-fed rivers in the province’s national parks are the most popular rafting locations.
Mirage Adventure Tours, at Kananaskis Village, can set up rafting adventures separately or in combination with trail rides, mountain biking or heli-hiking. A Surf and Saddle package is about $67 and a rafting trip is about $37 (in approximate U.S. dollars). (403) 591-7773.
The western watershed of the Canadian Rockies feeds many rivers in southeastern British Columbia. A popular white-water rafting river is the Kicking Horse, which has Class III and IV rapids. The average cost calculated in approximate U.S. dollars, for a serious white-knuckle ride ranges from $52 to $117, depending on length of trip and amenities. A tamer float trip is about $34.
Alpine Rafting Co., (800) 663-7080 or (604) 344-5015.
Wet and Wild, (604) 344-6546.
Oregon has over 1,500 miles of rivers for floating adventures. The Rogue is one of its most popular for jet boating, white-water rafting, kayaking and canoeing.
Jerry’s Rogue River Jet Boat Tours is based at Gold Beach. The price for the short trip (64 miles round trip) is $30 for adults. A 104-mile round trip is $75. Call (800) 451-3645 or (503) 247-4571.
White Water Warehouse is based in Corvallis and offers trip choices with overnight options in tents or riverside lodges. A three-day camp trip costs $370, and a three-day lodge trip costs $430. Call (800) 214-0579 or (503) 758-3150.