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Best White Water Rafting in Northern California

Best Rivers to do White Water Rafting in Northern California

As we stretch out after a short winter that brought little snow to the area we turn our attention to warmer days and activities that can fill those days. Yeah we can go hiking or go to the beach but where is the thrill in that. For me the spring and summer needs to be filled with just a little white knuckle action, and what goes better with spring and summer and ultimate thrills then White Water Rafting in Northern California where some of the best rivers in the United States call home.

We are spoiled when it comes to great rivers to raft within only a couple hours drive. We have rivers which can only be rivaled with only a few other places in the world. Be it a relaxing class 3’s (I’ll go over the number system in a bit) that you can bring the whole family to, or something that makes your heart drop at every turn of the river.

White Water Rafting in Norther California is that chance for humans to get back to nature and have your heart stop at the same time. It’s just you, the river, and the raft, and the only way to tame the river is with a paddle and your courage.

What makes a great river to raft? For some it’s a lazy river where you can drink and tan, but we are talking about those ones. We are talking about ones that range from class 3 to 5. For those that have not white water rafted before the class of a river is judged on scale from 1-5+, 1 being the lazy drinking river we all love and 5 being rivers that needs no other explanation other then WOW! That being said let’s dive right in and find out what my favorite rivers are to raft in Northern California

American River: Now most know that the American is a river that runs through Sacramento but very few know that it has multiple forks with multiple options for great white water rafting. This river gets it start high in the sierras around the Rubicon in a lake called mountain meadow lake at around 8,000 elevation so snow melt is the main contributor here. The south fork is the more tame river with rapids running from class 2-4 on a few bends. If you are looking to take it easier on the river this is the one for you. The North Fork is where it is at for me. This is where you can truly get a white water rafting trip like very few. The north fork is river that has deep canyons, and is unlike any other in California in that it is not dammed or controlled by anybody but mother nature. This makes the best and only time to go in the spring, from April 1st to June depending on the season. The rapids range from 4’s to 5’s so no fluff here just the good stuff. I have rafted this river and have been on multiple rivers, and this is the only river where I have ever flipped a raft over. So there is no messing around this is am extreme river with extreme pay outs.

Trinity River: This was my first river I ever ran when I came to California so it holds a special spot in my heart. This Trinity river is a little farther away from the sacramento valley but rest assured it is worth it. The views as it meanders through the trinity alps and the Trinity-Shasta national forest are like no other. Just like most rivers it has multiple forks, but the one we will talk about it is the north fork. It is the river I ran when I first came up to college at Humboldt State. This part of the Trinity might not be the most exciting run of rapids around, but it’s views and peacefulness of the river will have you coming back for more year after year. The river ranges from class 2-4 rapids so nothing that will scare a person strait, but is perfect for the first timer. The good thing about this river as well is that it builds up in intensity as you raft it and finishes with it’s best rapid the Burnt Ranch Gorge.

Merced River: This river is perfect for the adventure seeker and the tourist. This is the main river flowing through the Yosemite valley so after you get done rafting you can make a stop off in beautiful Yosemite, thats what you call two birds one stone. Unfortunately the best rafting doesn’t run through the valley. This section from Redbud to Bagby is just west of the valley, and has some of the most extreme white water you will find in Northern California ranging from a few class 3’s to a ton of class 4’s. With such rapids as corner pocket and split rock, this is a river that will leave you breathless and have you asking for more.

Now there are tons of different options for white water rafting in Northern California, it’s another reason why Sacramento is such a perfect town, but the reason I picked these three is because they are one’s I have run and have a history with.

What are a few of your favorites? I would love to here back from my readers and see what you think are some of the best in are area and what I might have left out. You can respond back at Have a great start to your spring and remember that there is always adventures to be had you just have to seek them out.

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