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Splash into an adventure with these 5 whitewater rafting trips

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Home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, the United States is a hot destination for outdoor lovers and adventure-seekers alike. With 3.5 million miles of rivers winding through the country’s expansive landscape, whitewater rafting has undoubtedly become a popular activity for groups.

Check out these five locations for groups to explore the country’s natural beauty — thrills and excitement included.

1. Cascade Raft & Kayak
Horseshoe Bend, Idaho 

Whitewater rafting in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho

Photo: Cascade Raft & Kayak Whitewater rafting, Horseshoe Bend, Idaho

Located just 45 minutes outside of Boise, the Long family has been offering adrenaline-pumping trips down the Payette River since 1985. Cascade Raft & Kayak is the largest outfitter on the Payette River, offering four different whitewater rafting trips to suit groups of all interests and skill levels.

“Groups rafting with us should expect a seamless and professional experience from start to finish,” said Debbi Long, owner. “We take care of all the logistics to make things easy for you. Our riverside facility has everything that groups need and our guides are super knowledgeable and really fun. We hope that groups will take the opportunity to enhance their stay in Boise by seeing more of what Idaho has to offer. A rafting trip is an adventure that brings people together and creates lifetime memories.”

Cascade provides on-site catering and can accommodate groups up to 400 guests.

2. Three Rivers Whitewater
West Forks, Maine 

Whitewater rafting in West Forks, Maine

Photo: Three Rivers Whitewater Whitewater rafting, West Forks, Maine

Offering three different rivers to choose from, Three Rivers Whitewater gives groups the chance to explore Maine’s pristine wilderness with a thrilling excursion. Groups can choose from rafting trips down the Kennebec, Dead and Penobscot rivers. Controlled by a dam, these rivers offer guaranteed high-water releases throughout the full whitewater rafting season (May through October).

Appropriate for groups of all ages and skill levels, the Kennebec is Maine’s most popular river for whitewater rafting. The Kennebec shares long, fun runs with less rigorous sections.

The Dead River offers the most continuous whitewater in the eastern United States, with Class III and IV rapids. The river has specific high-water releases throughout the season, making for eventful trips in the spring and fall.

The Penobscot River will fill any adrenaline junkie’s fix. Boasting Class V rapids and the opportunity to pair a trip with sky diving, groups can get their hearts pumping while fully immersing themselves in Maine’s natural paradise.

Groups can also book stays with Three Rivers, ranging from riverside camping to cabins, to bunkhouses and a full-service inn.

3. Adventures on the Gorge
Lansing, West Virginia 

Whitewater rafting in Lansing, West Virginia

Photo: Adventures on the Gorge Whitewater rafting, Lansing, W.Va.

With world-class rapids on both the New and Gauley rivers, Adventures on the Gorge gives groups an unparalleled whitewater rafting experience in West Virginia.

“Groups on the New and Gauley rivers can expect a complete turnkey experience led by well-trained guides who learned their craft from the region’s rafting pioneers,” said Dave Arnold, co-founder and vice president of public relations and strategic partnerships at Adventures on the Gorge. “When it comes to rafting, one size does not fit all, a group experience can be a fun and relaxing day or it can be an adrenaline rush.” 

Adventures on the Gorge is a top-rated adventure resort, offering a variety of outdoor activities including whitewater rafting, zip lining, kayaking, hiking and stand-up paddle boarding. Popular rafting trips include the upper and lower New River, and the upper Gauley River.

The lower New River trip is perfect for experts and beginners alike, the upper New River is calmer, suiting beginners, and the upper Gauley River is a Class V adventure, known as the “Beast of the East.”

4. Echo Canyon River Expeditions
Cañon City, Colorado 

Whitewater rafting in Cañon City, Colorado

Photo: Echo Canyon River Expeditions Whitewater rafting, Cañon City, Colo.

Explore Colorado’s rugged wilderness with a trip down the Arkansas River with Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Rafting in Colorado depends on the mountain snowpack melting during the spring and summer, with the rafting season typically running from April to September.

Echo Canyon offers full-, multi- and half-day trips for both experienced and beginner rafters.

“The Bighorn Sheep Canyon outing is the outfitter’s most popular trip and combines mild whitewater with calm stretches featuring wildlife-watching in a spectacular natural setting,” said Ben Sack, general manager of Echo Canyon. “Experienced rafters looking for an adrenaline rush can choose the Royal Gorge Rafting trips. With rapids ranging from challenging Class III up to Class V, this trip makes its way through the 1,000-feet-deep Royal Gorge of the Arkansas. No matter how anxious people are before the trip, they tend to all be on top of the world when they’re done. Rafting in a group environment brings everyone together, and I love seeing smiles from the front to the back of the raft.”

5. Rafting in the Smokies
Hartford, Tennessee 

Whitewater rafting in Hartford, Tennessee

Photo: Rafting in the Smokies Whitewater rafting, Hartford, Tenn.

Float through East Tennessee’s lush greenery and mountainous landscape with Rafting in the Smokies, a pioneer outfitter nestled along the Pigeon River. The 5.5-mile whitewater rafting trip on the upper Pigeon River shares 12 Class III rapids and three lively Class IV rapids, an exciting trip for both experts and beginners.

The river is skirted by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, Appalachian Trail and the Martha Sundquist State Forest, revealing some of the most dramatic scenery in Tennessee. The Pigeon River is dam-controlled, allowing for guaranteed rafting from May to September.

Aside from whitewater adventures, Rafting in the Smokies offers zip lining, a rock climbing wall and a ropes challenge course. Relaxing float trips are also offered on the lower Pigeon River. 

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About Author

Kelsey Smith, Associate Editor

The more wine columnist Kelsey Smith travels, the more tales she can’t wait to tell. She especially likes to discover how destinations and attractions can accommodate groups. To earn a star on her travel checklist, there better be parking for a motorcoach and dining, at least nearby. Watch for the debut of her blog, “Wine Wednesday.”

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