5 of Our Favorite Rivers to Raft Out West in the Winter

5 of Our Favorite Rivers to Raft Out West in the Winter

If you’re anything like us, you’re still on the hunt for that whitewater adrenaline fix well after the majority of the rivers here in Colorado dissipate to un-raftable water levels.  Lucky for us, there are still options to get out on the river throughout the winter season.  Not every river in the western United States dries up to a slow trickle or a solid sheet of ice at this time of year like most of Colorado’s do.  Here are five options to get you out there into the cold wonderful world of winter time rafting.

Westwater Canyon of the Colorado

Looking for a (very) full day of river time or even some chilly riverside camping over the course of two to three days?  Westwater Canyon is a great place to check out!  This trip takes you down a beautiful canyon whilst floating down the mighty Colorado River through mostly class III rapids at this time of year.  One rapid to look out for is Skull Rapid.  This section will be the hardest part of your journey, as it features a very large rock in the middle of the river with a tall cliff face to its right.  Best way to prepare is rig to flip and dress to swim for this one.

Trip Length: Full Day to 3 Day
Location: Near Moab, Utah
Length: 17 miles
Permit Required? Yes

The Rio Grande

Looking to escape the cold for a bit and have a more chill stretch of whitewater to venture out on?  Texas is a great destination to head to with much warmer temperatures over the winter.  The Rio Grande (meaning “big river” in Spanish) is a meandering river with five different canyons on its over 250 protected river miles.  Perfect for just a day excursion or a multiday outing, some sections of this river are doable in just 1 day, or you can stay out there for as long as 21 days.  That’s a lot of relaxation time, señor!

Rafting the Rio Grande

Trip Length: Full Day to 21 Days
Location: SW Texas
Length: 1,885 miles (through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico)
Permit Required? Yes

Rafting in Oregon

So you’re under the impression that just because you’re up north you can’t raft?  Think again!  Oregon has a bunch of winter time rafting adventures to go on.  So many in fact, Oregon gets its own title.  You can raft the Clackamas or the Sandy that are near Portland.  They both feature fun Class III and IV sections.  Or you can head on over to Hood River which boasts five different sections ranging from Class II to IV for the mild to wild experience.  If you’re looking for a cool overnighter trip, make sure you look into running the Rogue River! It’s an awesome 3–4-day trip that has mostly Class III rapids and one sweet Class IV.

The White Salmon

Stick arond the Pacific North West and head to the White Salmon River in Washington State.  The White Salmon starts high up from a glacier on Mt Adams, then blasts through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.  The most classic stretch is seven miles of mostly nonstop Class III.  If you’re up for a bigger adventure, you can plunge off the 12-foot waterfall at the end called Husom Falls… it’s sweet!

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado

Here it is, folks!  The crème del la crème… the best of the West… the Grand Freakin’ Canyon!  Every hardcore rafters dream is to run a Grand Canyon trip with 15 of their bestest friends for a 16 to 24 days through the world’s most amazing natural wonder.  You can achieve this too, with the right amount of luck.  The permit is a lottery system and goes live every February so be sure to apply!  Either that, or have a friend win it and hope they see you as a good fit to be on their crew.  Usually, these permits are up for grabs over a year before the actual trip date, so they require a LOT of planning in advanced and can get pretty costly for some.  If you are more of a live-in-the-moment type of rafter, you can sign up for last minute cancelation notifications through the GRCA.

Fun Fact: The classification of rapids within the Grand Canyon is on a different system than other rivers in America.  The Grand Canyon’s rapids are measured on a 10 class rating system.

Rafting the Grand Canyon

Trip Length: 16 – 24 days
Location: Arizona
Length: Up to 226 miles
Permit Required? Yes

Alright ladies and gentlemen, there you have it.  The best rafting adventures you can find this side of the Mississippi during the dreary, cold days of winter.  Now get out there and make your winter a little less depressing by spending some quality time in the outdoors with your closest friends and quality whitewater!  Not sure how to prepare for a private rafting trip?  Colorado River Rental’s Blog has all the info you need!