Epic North American Whitewater Trips

Originally published on The Clymb

Whether you are a city slicker or country bumpkin, odds are you don’t spend the majority of your day paddling down a river. Even if you are an avid paddler, odds are that most of your river trips leave you shuttling back to your car at the end of the day.

While it’s fun and everything, you are still not getting the full effect of an epic adventure of watching the world pass you by at the speed of the river’s flow, day after day. A relationship forms between the paddler and the river that takes time to nurture—a couple hours on the water doesn’t cut it. Anyone who has been on a multi-day trip knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the type of feeling that one gets by immersing themselves in their surroundings, away from urban distractions and worries about work, kids, and all the other things that consume our modern day to day life.

In the North American west we are truly blessed to have some of the best whitewater in the world, and many of the river stretches are so long it can take a week to navigate just a small section. If sending yourself over rapids for days at a time sounds like your idea of fun, then read on and see our list for the best multi-day whitewater trips in North America!

Alsek-Tatshenshini Rivers, British Columbia
This is a journey that will make you feel very small—chances are that you won’t see another person outside your party through the entire trip. It winds through northern BC and the Yukon before eventually spitting you out at the Pacific Ocean at Haines, Alaska. The 180+ mile journey will introduce you to what true wilderness is—something you cannot fully experience in the tourist-saturated rivers of the lower 48.

Salmon River, Idaho
This is perhaps the most epic of all journeys on a moving body of water. Several hundred miles of canyon—encrusted sidewinding whitewater take you around the state of Idaho and the Frank Church “River of No Return” wilderness. This area is a protectd piece of land that has no development—not even a lone dirt road. As such you are immersed completely in nature, and the odd bighorn sheep, wolf or elk will help remind you just how isolated you are.

Colorado River and Grand Canyon, Arizona
This 277 mile journey through a canyon that needs no introduction is epic, to say the very least. The view from the canyon bottom alone is worth the trip. Mix in some fun whitewater, sandy outcroppings, and warm weather all together, and you have the workings for a memorable adventure. You need to book in advance for a river permit, so plan ahead and get your crew ready starting right…now.

Unless you are extremely experienced, you should hire a guide to show you the safe routes through the rapids. These rivers are extremely remote, and you cannot count on help coming to rescue you. You must be self-sufficient, practice leave-no-trace ethics, and be prepared for the worst. But if you have everything organized, you will be in for a life-changing experience!