Break out the paddles and make sure you have a good grip — the rivers we list below are known to run wild. While whitewater rafting is a terrific recreation for the whole family, some rivers give more “rush and thrill” than “relax and chill.” From the beautiful Franklin River in Tasmania to the thunderous Noce River in Italy, we rounded up exciting rivers that are best known for offering heart-pounding adventures.
Is it worth flying halfway across the world for whitewater rafting? If you’re talking about the Franklin River in Tasmania, then heck yeah! Part of the Commonwealth of Australia, Tasmania is an island state located 150 miles from the motherland. And while it may be known for its Tasmanian devil (this animal does exist), the Franklin River is Tasmania’s claim to fame for outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to conservation efforts, it’s known as one of Earth’s most beautiful rivers, and it runs right through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Rafters experience surging rapids, waterfalls and beautiful forestry, and the rip-roaring journey downstream truly offers an unforgettable ride.
The 225 miles of Colorado River that stretch from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek are most notable for their whitewater rapids. It’s a thrilling rush through American geological history, as rafters pass Paleozoic walls that are a half-billion years old. There are 42 major rapids, many of which are not for the faint of heart. The rafting adventure takes visitors to famous sites like Lava Falls, the limestone chamber of Redwall Cavern, and some of the biggest whitewater rapids in the canyon — including the Crystal, Sapphire, Turquoise and Ruby rapids — which will likely leave you shrieking with excitement.
Locals like to say that the New River in West Virginia is moody: The river is sometimes playful and sometimes raging, depending on the season. If you head straight to the 105-mile-long Gauley River, which merges with the New River, you’re guaranteed to find one of the most advanced (and intense!) whitewater runs on the east coast of North America. Upper Gauley River rafting is Class V rapids at its best: exhilarating, with little to no recovery time between rapids. It’s drop after drop in these mammoth rapids. In other words: Be prepared to get wet!
The Futaleufú in Chile’s Patagonia region is known for outdoor adventures, and one of the biggest draws is its whitewater rafting. The glacial water here — from the Andes — is so pure that you can scoop your hand in for a sip. The Futaleufú River is a gorgeous emerald color with the alpine backdrop enhancing the scenery. But you might be distracted from the landscape — the river cranks out Class V rapids that are so powerful, even expert rafters get challenged. It’s an epic journey in one of the most majestic places on Earth.
Running through Sun Valley, the Noce River in Northern Italy’s Dolomites is known in the rafting community as one of the wildest rivers, despite the serene, picnic-happy reputation of the destination. Thrill seekers and bucket-listers alike don’t hold back from making a memorable visit. The river is fed by melting Alpine glaciers, offering some of Europe’s best whitewater rafting. Class V rapids are relentless and thunderous; some would even say harsh. After your adventure, there’s nothing you’ll want more than a glass of vino as a reward for all the hard work.