Where to Find the Best Whitewater Rafting This Year
By Cari Morgan1 Min. Read
The 2014 whitewater rafting forecast is here…
Have you been hearing the word “drought?” Forget about it. We’ve analyzed the annual snowpack reports and checked in with our regional managers so we could report back on where to find the best whitewater rafting conditions this year. With above-average snowpack across the inter-mountain West, we’re looking at six incredible early-season big water trips and reliable flows all summer long in Idaho, Colorado and Utah.
Here are our official picks for the best whitewater this year, including the top spots for adventure-seekers looking for exciting early-season high water:
Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, Utah
Steve Kenney, OARS. Utah Regional Manager, says that April weather will be the final factor in determining the high-water peak for Cataract Canyon rafting, but the flow will be higher than the previous two years due to a snowpack that is currently at 131 percent of normal in the Upper Colorado River headwaters.
“If it keeps snowing into late April it could turn into 2011 which hit 84,000 cfs,” said Kenney. “Above 50,000 cubic feet per second this is no longer a scenic vacation trip…it’s an expedition with all of the wonderful thrills of the wildness of nature.”
A higher water year should also mean fun, reliable rafting for families and first-timers from mid-June well into October.
Salmon River, Idaho
In Idaho, with current snowpack in the Salmon River drainage at 119 percent, high flow for the Middle Fork Salmon is predicted at 6.5 feet, and 69,000 cfs for the Main Salmon River,” according to Curt Chang, OARS. Idaho Regional Manager.
Peak water at the end of May and into June is also expected to provide the opportunity to run the Middle Fork Salmon by dory, which is only doable during periods of higher water. Families and more laid-back vacationers can count on the free-flowing Salmon offering fun flows into September.
Snake River through Hells Canyon, Idaho
While the Snake River through Hells Canyon is dam controlled, river runners can still expect to see 40,000 cfs due to a snowpack that is at 123 percent of average. Plus, it’s the deepest river gorge in North America, and who doesn’t want to notch Hells Canyon rafting off of the bucket list?
Yampa River Rafting, Utah
Men’s Journal just featured the Yampa River as one of the top whitewater rafting destinations for 2014. And we couldn’t agree more.
“Looking at the numbers, we’re at the same point we were for 2011 which was a high water year and we saw over 20,000 cfs on the Yampa,” according to OARS. Dinosaur Regional Manager, Bruce Lavoie. “Rafting high water on the Yampa is high intensity, adventurous and a completely different experience.”
In northern Colorado, the Yampa River basin is at 125 percent of average while the Green River basin is 144 percent of normal.
Green River through the Gates of Lodore, Utah
“High water in the Gates of Lodore is very exciting,” continued Lavoie. “Lodore is narrow and a smaller river corridor so the features are very big at that water level.”
Don’t rule this trip out if you’re not excited about big water. Come mid-June, Green River rafting is the ideal trip for first-timers.
When Should You Go?
Folks who are active, physically fit and looking for a “big ride” should target these rivers late-May to mid-June, while families with younger children and first-timers will enjoy fun and steady flows from late June through September or even October in Cataract Canyon.
“At high water we’re looking for people who are adventurous, and in good shape,” said Lavoie. “The water is cold and if they take a swim they need to be ready for it mentally and physically.”