Whitewater Wishlist: The Top Ten Whitewater Rafting Trips

The Zambezi, Zimbabwe/Zambia and the Alsek/Tatshenshini, Alaska/British Columbia
  |  Gorp.com

From gentle Class I rapids to plunging Class Vs, from half-day trips near home to 200-mile wilderness expeditions into the jungles of South America, rafting offers a heady fresher of vacation experiences. Here are eight river trips that promise big rapids, incredible scenery, and the ultimate in riverine adventure.

The Zambezi, Zimbabwe/Zambia
In 1855, Dr. David Livingstone hired natives to paddle his canoe to the brink of mile-wide, 364-foot-high Victoria Falls, billed as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. Modern-day river runners can do the same by hiring raft or canoe guides both above and below the falls. Above the falls are miles and miles of tranquil canoeing waters inhabited by everything from elephants to hippopotami. Below lies the infamous Batoka Gorge, creating the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and offering some of the best Class IV-V, big-water whitewater in the world. The stretch has so many rapids they aren't even named...just numbered. Day trips are offered on the first 23 rapids, or you can go for an extended stay in the bush—a la Livingstone—for up to seven days.
The Alsek/Tatshenshini, Alaska/British Columbia
To experience Jack London's "call of the wild" in the world of whitewater, head north, as London did, to Alaska and British Columbia's Alsek/Tatshenshini watershed. Here you'll encounter everything from bears and fresh Alaskan blueberries to spawning King salmon and giant standing waves. Of course, one of the most unique things about the Class III, 180-mile journey down the Alsek or 130-mile jaunt down the Tatshenshini are the icebergs that accompany you all the way to the Pacific Ocean. You can even break off some of their glacial ice for your drinks as you listen at camp, under the lights of the aurora borealis, for that wild call.

Eugene Buchanan lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he has worked as editor and publisher of Paddler magazine since 1992. He is an accomplished freelance writer whose credits include The New York Times and Men's Journal, Outside, Powder, Ski, and Sports Afield magazines.

Published: 20 Jun 2001 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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