Cultural Whitewater on Turkey's CoruhRiver

If ever a waterway offered the chance to combine rafting with culture, it's Turkey's Class III-IV Coruh River, first run in 1978. Located in the northeast part of the country near the town of Bayburt, the river offers 170 miles of castle-lined whitewater, taking you deeper and deeper into history with each stroke of the paddle.
To do the entire section takes about seven river days. Most trips start at Ispir, about a three-hour drive from Erzurum, and end at Artvin near the Georgian border. After camping amidst fireflies, which locals believe draw fairies out at night to dance, you'll get your first taste of Coruh whitewater on one of several Class III-IV warm-up rapids. The next few days take you through the Coruh Gorge, whose rapids continue in quick succession with such notable drops as Class V Aqueduct and Class V Hialeah, which is often portaged depending on water volume.

More impressive than the rapids, however, is the scenery. The gorge's 5,000-foot walls rise against a backdrop of the Kackar Mountains' snow-capped peaks, and you'll find countless Seljuk and Byzantine Turk castles perched on rock outcrops high above the river. Oftentimes, camp itself will be situated right below an ancient castle you'll have all to yourself.
Don't make the classic Coruh mistake, however, of paying so much attention to the area's castles that you forget about the rapids. Before you know it you'll enter the Yusefeli Gorge, whose huge Class IV-V rapids are so continuos that they served host to the World Rafting Championships in 1993. They're guaranteed to soak you like the castles' moats did to their intruders. Some of the drops you'll encounter in the gorge include High Tension, King Kong, and Garden of Eden. If you get a chance, you might want to stop en route at the town of Yusefeli for a traditional shave and haircut or shop for local textiles. And don't pat yourself on the back once you make it through the gorge. The last full day of the trip takes you through Class V+ Lava East, often portaged, and such Class V finales as The Wall and The Slot.
The trip should not be considered over once you reach the take-out at Artvin. The peaks and valleys of the Allahuekbar Mountains await you on your return drive to Erzurum. And a least a few extra days must be set aside for a trip to Istanbul, where you can explore such ancient monuments as Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, and tour the Grand Bazaar, where traders from Asia, Africa and Europe have bartered for thousands of years. And no matter how good their bartering, they'll have a hard time getting you to trade your trip on the Coruh for anything.
PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

Difficulty: Everything from Class III-V, depending on flow.
Price Range: Four-day trips run upwards of $600.
Best time to go: For high water, go in the early spring.

Published: 8 Jul 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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