Like your nature with a dash of adrenaline? Try white-water rafting, which makes for an exciting way to explore the wonders of the American wilderness. Passable rapids are classified into five levels, Class I to V, with Class I to III rapids suitable for anyone over age 7, with no experience necessary. Commercial outfitters often restrict passage on the longer, more turbulent Class IV and Class V rapids to adults and children over the age of 12 or 15. Whether you choose a day trip or a multi-day experience, there are rapids to suit nearly any skill level.
With a long season, reliable water and varying levels of difficulty, the Yough (pronounced yawk) has something for just about everybody. The Class III to IV Lower Yough is suitable for a broad range of experience levels, while experienced white-water enthusiasts love the steep rapids of the Upper Yough, which drops almost 1,000 feet over a 10-mile stretch.
Flowing through three states and the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, the Chattooga is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in the Southeast. Section III of the river, with its Class II and III rapids, is appropriate for novices and family groups, while Section IV includes a quarter-mile gorge where the river drops more than 75 feet.
The Colorado offers a number of rafting opportunities along its 1,400-mile length, but it is best known for its passage through the Grand Canyon. The Canyon section is rated Class IV overall, with a few Class V rapids and numerous Class I to III passages. The Upper Canyon stretches approximately 88 miles with a number of five-day excursions available that offer opportunities for side hikes. River-rafting trips through the more popular Lower Canyon can stretch 192 miles and several days in length and offer some of the biggest rapids on the river.
One of the world's most popular white-water rivers, the Salmon offers rapids up to Class IV and glorious alpine and forest scenery as it flows through the largest roadless wilderness in the lower 48 states. The Salmon's Middle Fork is a five- to six-day adventure that starts on a rushing alpine river and ends in a majestic desert canyon, while the Main Salmon offers overnight trips up to seven days as well as single- or half-day excursions. Running both sections can provide a thrilling 12-day vacation.
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