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Best places to camp and raft

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More from Outdoor Living Newsletter April Outdoor Living Newsletter

Going on a camping trip is always synonymous with going on an outdoor adventure. For many campers and RVers, these outdoor adventures often include whitewater rafting expeditions. In recent decades, whitewater rafting has become popular as a leisure sport. For the thrill-seekers and the daredevils, whitewater rafting holds the promise of excitement and danger. For those pursuing it with their families and friends, whitewater rafting is an activity that is not just fun but also provides them with an opportunity to bond with their loved ones.

To easily combine camping and rafting, we have picked seven whitewater rafting destinations where you can either camp on the river or stay at nearby campgrounds and RV parks:

1.  Chattooga River, Georgia

A designated "Wild and Scenic River" by the US Congress, the Chattooga River is considered to be the premier destination for whitewater rafting in the southeastern states. Running a total of 56.9 miles, the Chattooga River is the main tributary of Tugaloo River and cuts through Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The banks of the Chattooga River are famous for their dense, untouched forests and their scenic views.

Rafters can enjoy the Chattooga River from March to October. The Chattooga River is a free-flowing, drop-pool river, meaning its rapids are always followed by calm waters. The river is divided into three sections: Section II for Class II or beginner rafters; Section III for Class III or intermediate rafters; and Section IV for Class IV or experienced rafters.

Couple whitewater rafting on the San Juan River, Colorado
Whitewater rafting fun

Businesses running rafting trips on the Chattooga river:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Chattooga River in Georgia.

2.  Colorado River (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California)

The Colorado River is simply legendary. It is a river that every avid rafter should visit at least once in their lifetime. Once there, rafters will be treated not just to a thousand-mile course of challenging rapids but also to ever-changing dramatic scenery created by canyons and desert landscapes along the river's path. The Colorado River begins as a tiny stream at La Poudre Pass in Colorado and crosses the states of Utah, Arizona and California before it meets the Pacific Ocean northwest of Mexico.

The Colorado River is an extremely popular whitewater rafting destination. Parts of the river are gentle enough for beginner rafters to float or paddle through, while some parts are difficult enough to challenge even the most experienced of rafters. The most visited portion of the Colorado River is at the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona, where a 280-mile course runs through spectacular desert landscapes. The best time to visit the Colorado River is from May to September.

There are numerous put-ins and take-outs along the Colorado River. Most short rafting trips along the river begin at the Glen Canyon Dam and end at Lee's Ferry. Those who want to explore the Grand Canyon start their journey at Lee's Ferry and end it at Lake Mead.

Businesses running rafting trips on the Colorado River:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Colorado River in Colorado.

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Colorado River in Utah.

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Colorado River in Arizona.

3.  Gauley River, West Virginia

The 105-mile-long Gauley River in West Virginia is one of the top whitewater rafting destinations in the world. The highlight of the Gauley River National Recreation Area, this river is not for the fainthearted as it boasts of over a hundred steep and swift-flowing rapids with huge and often treacherous waves. The most notorious of these rapids are Pillow Rock, Insignificant, Sweet's Falls, Iron Ring and Lost Paddle, all famous for the challenge they pose even for highly experienced rafters.

The Gauley River is a popular site for whitewater rafting competitions. It is only open during the "Gauley Season," which is six weekends from Labor Day to mid-October. Due to its dangerous nature, the Gauley River is recommended only for experienced Class III to Class V rafters. Beginners and intermediate rafters should try gentler waters before trying out the Gauley.

The Gauley River is often divided into three runs: Upper Gauley, Middle Gauley and Lower Gauley. The Upper Gauley run begins at Summersville Dam and ends at the Mason Branch. From the Mason Branch begins the Middle Gauley, and it ends at the Bucklick Branch. The Bucklick Branch designates the start of the Lower Gauley, and this run ends at the Swiss.

River Expeditions, West Virginia White Water Rafting

Businesses running rafting trips on the Gauley River:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Gauley River, West Virginia.

4.  Rogue River, Oregon

Rogue River in Oregon is considered to be one of the most scenic whitewater rafting destinations along the West Coast. Located in southwestern Oregon, this river stretches 215 miles from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean, boasting of lush gorges and rolling hillsides at every bend. As Rogue River is protected from development, its waters and banks teem with wildlife. Black bears, river otters, ospreys and bald eagles call this river home, and its waters are full of steelheads and salmon.

Rogue River is designated as a Class II/III whitewater rafting destination, making it best for intermediate rafters. The whitewater rafting course runs 34 miles and is full of exciting rapids such as the Rainie Falls and the Black Bar Falls. The best time to visit Rogue River for a rafting adventure is from May to October.

The most popular run on the Rogue River is the one from Grave Creek to the Foster Bar Landing. Designated as Class IV+, this run is the longest and most challenging on the Rogue River, often taking three to four days to complete.

Businesses running rafting trips on the Rogue River:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Rogue River, Oregon.

5.  Salmon River, Idaho

Fondly referred to as "The River of No Return," the Salmon River is considered to be one of the most exciting and idyllic whitewater rafting destinations in the world. Stretching 425 miles, the Salmon River is the longest free-flowing river contained within a single state in the US Lower 48 and cuts through the deepest gorge in the whole North American continent. Most of the area surrounding the Salmon River is designated as a wilderness area, and rafters braving this river can treat themselves to stunning views of natural granite walls and wildlife.

The Salmon River is only open to whitewater rafters from June to September. The portions of the river most popular to rafters and tourists are the river's main stem and middle fork. The Main Salmon River run starts at Riggins, Idaho and ends at the Hammer Creek launch site at White Bird. It is good for beginner rafters (Class II-III). The Middle Fork run, on the other hand, begins near Stanley at Dagger Falls and ends at Cache Bar on the main river. It is a popular destination among the more experienced rafters.

Businesses running rafting trips on the Salmon River:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Main Salmon River.

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Middle Fork.

6.  San Juan River, Colorado

Although the San Juan River is considered to be a tributary of the great Colorado River, it does provide some good whitewater rafting adventures, especially for beginners who are just getting their feet wet.

Stretching 400 miles, the San Juan River runs westward from the San Juan Mountains towards the Colorado River and empties into Lake Powell. The most popular put-in is at Pagosa Springs. This river is open all year-round.

Businesses running rafting trips on the San Juan River:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the San Juan River, Colorado.

7.  Skykomish River, Washington

Fondly referred to as "The Sky", the Skykomish River is the primary year-round destination of whitewater rafters in the North West. The main stem of the Skykomish River stretches 29 miles and is formed just one mile off the town of Index, where the waters of the North Fork Skykomish and the South Fork Skykomish converge. The Skykomish River, in turn, becomes the Snohomish River when it joins with Snoqualmie River at Monroe City.

Most experienced rafters consider The Sky as a very demanding river to cross. Although the North Fork and the South Fork have relatively gentler waters, these waters become very quick and intense as they flow past Index. From then on, these waters become Class III to V territory. Among the well-known rapids of The Sky is the legendary Class V Boulder Drop. The put-in to The Sky is at Index, while the take-out is either at the railroad bridge on Highway 2 mile 32.5 or at the fishing access at Highway 2 mile 30.4.

Businesses running rafting trips on The Sky:

Find campgrounds and RV parks near the Skykomish River, Washington.

A passion for whitewater rafting is something that many campers and RVers have. There are many whitewater rafting destinations in the country. The seven we have listed above are just some of the places where you can camp and raft. Before you go to these places, though, please do your research first and make sure that the whitewater rafting destination you have chosen is indeed appropriate for your skill level.

Copyright ©2011 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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1 comment(s) so far...

I look forward to rafting and camping at some of the locations you have named above. Maine has dam controlled river rafting with guaranteed whitewater 7 days a week. With continuous whitewater and guaranteed flows, Maine is an amazing place for whitewater fun. Check out Northeast Guide Service and northeast whitewater rafting the next time you decide to travel to New England for outdoor camping and a whitewater rafting vacation.
We hope to see you soon!

By raftingmaine on 9/16/2011 7:42:46 PM
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