Big Water Rafting

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Have you ever wondered what the biggest and wildest rapids are in the USA? Then look no further. Rapids are classified using an internationally renowned grading system. The classification system is the international scale of river difficulty.

  • There are six categories ranging from class I (safest) to VI (most difficult.)
  • Classified I rapids are mild and VI rapids are classified as being un-runnable. Rapids classed at VI are as crazy and as wild as you are going to get.
  • Rivers change their rating as the season’s change and the water rises and falls.
  • Rivers in high season are only for experienced rafters which is why RaftingSpot will recommend a particular rafting outfitter after each Big Water river description.
  • Feel free to get in contact with the outfitter to book your rafting trip. Enjoy the Rapids!

Gauley River, West Virginia

Upper Gauley (Class IV-V) Stretch = 15.8 km

The Gauley River is described as having some of the best whitewater in the world. The river drops 335 feet in less than 13 miles! This makes for the most exhilarating white water rafting. However, the Gauley Rivers water levels do fluctuate depending on rainfall and the level of Summersville Lake. There are five main Rapids to this river:

    1. Insignificant – (Class V ) Insignificant is a long rapid with a big pour over at the top. The name came after the first whitewater rafting trip on this rapid reported “nothing significant before Pillow.”
    2. Pillow Rock – (Class V) Pillow rock is accessible via a steep trail from Carnifex Ferry Battleground site. It is notorious for being an extremely powerful and intimidating rapid. So this rapid is for the more experienced rafter
    3. Lost Paddle – (Class V) Lost paddle is a long rapid. It consists of four sub-rapids.
      1. First Drop
      2. Second Drop
      3. Third Drop
      4. Tumblehome
    4. Iron Ring – (Class V ) Iron ring is named in reference to the large iron ring which had been anchored in a rock near the rapid by loggers. The Iron ring was removed in 1980 by vandals.
    5. Sweet’s Falls – (Class V ) Sweet’s Falls rapid is named after John Sweet a pioneer of Gauley rafting in 1972.
      1. This rapid can be challenging and it is recommended that you are 16 years old with experience in rafting. Therefore, it recommended you are in good physical condition and you attempt this river is high season.

RaftingSpot Outfitter Recommendations

New & Gauley River Adventures is a small, personal operation of pro adventure guides. Family owned for more than 30 years, they know these hills like their own backyard… because, well, it is their backyard.

Chattooga River, Georgia

Class IV+ Stretch = 57 miles

It is recommended that you raft the Chattooga River in early spring because of the higher flows and cooler temperatures. The Chattooga River is free-flowing. This means there is no upstream dam to control the flow. Because it is free-flowing this means the river responds quickly to rainfall or drought conditions

The Chattooga River is well-known for its rapids Jaw Bone and Seven Foot Falls.

The ‘Piece De Resistance’ to rafting on Section 3 of the river is a Class IV+ thriller. This rapid delights with a 14-foot elevation drop that is combined with a tricky line that includes a difficult to manoeuvre ledge, called Decapitation Rock. But If this isn’t adrenaline pumping enough for you, there is a big hole that you have to surf to escape.

For the experienced and adrenaline-fueled rafter, Section IV rapids are the ones for you. The Five Falls are class IV rapids which are strung together over a 1/4 mile gorge, where the river drops more than 75 feet.

RaftingSpot Outfitter Recommendations

South-eastern Expeditions have experienced and friendly guides and staff who every year introduce thousands of people to the Chattooga. The rapids are exhilarating and the scenery is even better! You are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience.

Clavey Falls – Tuolumne River, California

Class IV+

Clavey Falls in California has a quarter-mile of Class I water leading up to the dramatic finale. This stretch of class I water is referred to as ‘calm before the storm’.

As you approach the initial drop of Clavey Falls you will be deafened by the sound of fast flowing water downstream. Then you will drop 8 vertical feet. For even more heart-pumping action you will drop again whilst trying to manoeuvre around a big hole!

Clavey Falls is described as having ‘’long, boulder-strewn rapids, beautiful, remote, wild scenery.’’ Therefore, it has to be said that this is one of the most beautiful but also notorious rapids in the world.

RaftingSpot Outfitter Recommendations

All Outdoor Rafting’ is a family run company that shares their passion for the river with all of their guests. They have accumulated a vast experience of rafting in the 50 years they have been operating. Their river guides are professional, safety conscious but also great fun!

Chilko River, British Columbia

(Class – Up to V) Stretch = 130 miles

The Chilko River adventure works its way through alpine forests and narrow canyons. This adventure ends one week later and 3,000 vertical feet lower on the Fraser River. The Fraser River is the lifeblood of Canada’s largest river system. Located 35 kilometers below the Chilko’s outflow you will reach Lava Canyon a 75 kilometer-long river in the Chilcotin district. It is located in the Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Lava Canyon is commonly referred to as the longest stretch of commercially run Class IV whitewater in North America. At the start of the run, you will find Bidwell, a class IV “S-bend” rapid that contains a huge hole at the bottom. This is why professional rafters say that it is an intense way to start off the Chilko’s infamous White Mile!