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Snake River in Idaho

Discover the Best White Water Rafting Destinations in Idaho: A Thrilling Adventure (2024)

For those who are not aware of the thrilling sport that is white water rafting, it involves traveling down an intensely fast and rough section of a water body in a rubber boat. In the United States, the beautiful state of Idaho is known as the white water state owing to the miles and miles of intense whitewater that serve as the perfect place for practicing white water rafting.

From through the many majestic and rugged mountain ranges in the state, it is estimated that there are more than 3500 whitewater rafting miles in Idaho alone. Not only is Idaho still home to the maximum number of wilderness rafting trips in the world, but it is also home to some of the most scenic views you will come across as you whitewater through the landscape.

Discover the Best White Water Rafting Destinations in Idaho: A Thrilling Adventure

Here are some of the best places for white water rafting in this gorgeous state.

1. Salmon River

The Salmon River is one of the most popular places for white water river rafting in Idaho. There is a very valid reason as to why this magnificent river is called the River of No Return. The sheer vastness of this river itself makes it challenging to find the end without hours of exploring. The Salmon River is a protected water body by the US Congress as it is one of the first Wild and Scenic Rivers to be named in the country.

The Salmon River meanders through vast sections of the Frank Church Wilderness, which is one of the biggest demarcated wilderness areas in the entire Lower 48 of the US. What sets apart this deep river canyon is its stunning beauty and the miles and miles of undisturbed rapids. This has made the Salmon River one of the most sought-after whitewater rivers in the entire continent of North America.

Salmon River, Idaho

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If you are planning a white water rafting trip to the Salmon River, it is important to know that there are three divided sections, namely the Main Salmon, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the Lower Salmon. Each stretch of this magnificent river is unparalleled to any other. The rapids here range from Class II to Class IV and you will find many commercial outfitters that help you plan trips to each of the three sections of the Salmon River. Remember to keep at least a week on hand to be able to explore this area properly. Many of the trips begin from the Corn Creek Boat Launch and you can go downriver from there. You will need to apply for permits if you want to access the Main Salmon stretch during the period of late June to early September. In fact, there is even a lottery that takes place in December, just before the peak white water rafting season begins.

Many people especially prefer exploring the Middle Fork of the Salmon River as it takes them on an off-beaten path. This stretch is surrounded by some of the most scenic landscapes in the US, complete with natural hot springs, an abundance of wildlife, and the rugged steep rocky cliffs that line the side of the river.

The Middle Fork is home to over 100 rapids throughout the river that is primarily class III and class IV in difficulty level. It is no wonder that the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is famous for being one of the most challenging rafting locations in the country.

2. Hells Canyon on the Snake River

The Snake River is another excellent location for white water rafting in the Gem State. This mesmerizing river flows through one of the deepest river gorges in entire North America, known as Hell’s Canyon. Hell’s Canyon is a vast 10-mile wide and 8,000 feet deep canyon that surprisingly makes it even deeper than the Grand Canyon by over 2000 feet. This stunning river gorge is actually the boundary between the states of Idaho and Oregon. It is within this wilderness that there are over 600 thousand acres of scenic beauty.

Snake River is home to some of the biggest rapids in the entire Pacific Northwest. There are also a wide variety of fish species, miles and miles of trail systems, and pictographs that are very rich in history. In fact, there is an abundance of adventure activities within the canyon, including white water rafting and trekking. The rapids present in this area are rated amongst class III to class IV in difficulty, and you will find rafters and kayakers coming here from all over the country to take part in this adventurous experience.

You will find many outfitters at Hell’s Canyon who will get you ready for embarking on white water rafting on the mighty Snake River.

3. Moyie River

The mighty Moyie River flows right from the majestic Purcell Mountains in Canada and crosses over into the border of Idaho at just northeast of Bonners Ferry. The river flows for nearly 20 miles into Idaho before it heads over to go crashing over the Moyie Falls and combines into the mesmerizing Kootenai River. Since there are no dams located on the river as it comes from in Canada and the river comes from a small watershed, the rafting opportunities are small and you can easily complete your white water rafting adventure in just one day.

The white water trips at Moyie River tend to begin towards the end of April or sometimes starting in May and last only till mid to late June. The exact time depends on how much snowfall the mountains experienced that season.

This is an adventurous Class III rafting trip that quickly transforms into a Class IV ride once you reach the high waters of Moyie River. If you are considering coming here for the adventure of a lifetime, remember to traverse the highlight of this 15-mile trip, which is crossing by the old Eileen Dam that was built all the way back in 1923. The dam was constructed to supply power to the local mines, and the rock that the dam was anchored to suddenly gave way within a year or so after it was built in 1923. Today you can still see the remnants of the old concrete arch in the river.

ROW Adventures is one of the leading commercial outfitters on the Moyie River and the company organizes trips during the few weeks that last every season.

4. Payette River

The Payette River passes through the southwestern parts of the beautiful state of Idaho and it is also one of the major tributaries of the mighty Snake River.

This is the place to head to for kayakers and rafters of all skill levels. Similar to the Salmon River, the Payette River is also divided into several sections to make it easier for visitors. The Main Payette section is home to many class I to III rapids, which are ideal for anyone, even beginners who are just looking to try their hand at white water rafting for the first time. For the intermediate rafter, there is the Cabarton Section of the North Fork where you will find many class II to class IV rapids, and the Staircase Section of the South Fork. The Canyon Section of the South Fork and the North Fork Payette section are ideal for those who are more set in rafting and are already advanced rafters and kayakers. These sections are home to many class IV and V rapids.

You will need to get daily permits or get a seasonal pass for parking for rafting in this area as the Payette River System is a Federal Fee Site.

5. Lochsa River

There are just three excellent Class IV whitewater rivers in the US that every whitewater rafting enthusiast must experience. One of them is Idaho’s Lochsa River, apart from California’s Tuolumne and West Virginia’s Gauley Rivers. Each of these three rivers conducts trips that vary in duration from one day to three days. The rapids at Lochsa River are so thrilling that even professional rafting guides flock here to experience the adventure again and again.

The flow at Lochsa River ranges from the lows of 1200 CFS to the highs of over 18000 CFS. What makes the Lochsa a fantastic destination for white water river rafting is that apart from having tons of water, the river is also equally steep, having an average drop of 30 inches per mile. This gradient works well in combination with the big volume of water to create the huge raft-bashing waves that are needed along with huge holes that will make your heart leap into your mouth.

The cold and clear waters of the Lochsa River come flowing straight from the mountains of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and Clearwater National Forest area. Plan your trip to the Lochsa River between early May to mid-July to experience the best rapids like Ten-Pin Alley, Bloody Mary, and even the Lochsa Falls. The rapids of the Lochsa River are so famous that rafters and kayakers from all over the US flock here during rafting season to take part in some of the most thrilling rides of their lives.

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