The Best Rafting Rivers for Beginners
Rafting the Family river rafting
EASY DOES IT: A quiet stretch of river suits all levels  (Photodisc/Getty)
Whitewater Classifications Explained:
Class I: Flat, moving water, including some small rapids with low waves.
Class II: Anything that can swamp a canoe.
Class III: Rapids start to become technical and have penalties for mistakes. A swim will be rough.
Class IV: Rapids become bigger, more technical, and the penalty for error bumps up a notch.
Class V: Rapids are intense, and the penalty for error can be classified as a potentially dangerous swim.
Class VI: Not runnable due to the severity of one or many objective hazards.

First-timers, disabled rafters, youngsters, or the less physically fit needn't sit out the fun just because a river is classified beyond their age level, weight, or presumed abilities. (And even if a river is ranked a tough Class IV-V, this doesn’t mean it is always beyond the pale—lower summer flows can change a river’s characteristic entirely.) However, consider the rivers listed here ideal for a first foray into the wild and wonderful world of whitewater rafting, where access doesn’t involve a one-day mule train, outfitter options are plentiful, trips options include manageable half-day runs, and the water has enough thrills and spills to keep everyone smiling.

Animas River, Colorado
Arkansas River, Colorado
Colorado River, Colorado
Cumberland River, Kentucky
French Broad River, North Carolina
Gunnison River, Colorado
Merced River, California
Methow River, Washington
Nantahala River, North Carolina
Payette River, Idaho
San Miguel River, Colorado
Skagit River, Washington
Trinity River, California
Verde River, Arizona

Published: 10 Jun 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »