Idaho Whitewater Rafting for Beginners and Experienced Rafters


Idaho has the best whitewater rafting in the country. Not many people have been aware of this, but it’s becoming more known as Idaho’s overall popularity booms thanks to a high quality of life. The primary reasons for the best whitewater rafting in the country include a wide range of experiences related to difficulty level and scenery including deep canyons, dense forests, and mountains.

Let’s begin with beginner whitewater rafting options before moving on the best options for experienced rafters. One great thing about rafting in Idaho–no matter your experience level or where you go, you will find beautiful scenery.

Beginner Whitewater Rafting In Idaho

Since Clearwater River is the calmest of them all, we’ll begin there. In fact, the water is so calm that it’s not really whitewater rafting. However, you’re on a raft and you’re floating down a river, so it’s close enough. This is more of a relaxed float down a scenic river, which makes it perfect for families and beginners. This is going to be a one-day event. You can also kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the Clearwater River.

If you want to take it up a notch but you still don’t want to attempt anything crazy, try the Moyie River. This is a one-day 10-mile adventure with Class II and Class III rapids. Most of this route is in the remote wilderness, making for amazing scenery, but it’s still easy to access. You’re also only two hours from Spokane. And if you want to make a vacation out of it, you can stay in Standpoint. Despite the remoteness of the river, Sandpoint is a regular town with grocery stores, restaurants, and anything else you would expect to find in a remote mountain town.

The Payette River can be challenging, but that’s only if you choose the South Fork. More on that soon. For now, if you want something not too challenging, choose the North Fork or the Main Payette River. The North Fork starts out very calm for the first nine miles and then ramps up to Class III rapids down the stretch for the second half of the trip. The Main Payette River is an eight-mile journey with Class II and Class III rapids. Either way, you’re less than an hour from Boise, making it the ideal choice for vacationing families, couples, and adventurers; as well as for residents.

The Salmon River is usually sought out by those with a lot of experience, but that’s only if you’re heading to the Main Salmon or Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Lower Salmon is Class II and Class III rapids, and you can sleep on a beach at night. It should also be noted that the Salmon River is located in the Frank Church Wilderness, making it one of the most protected and natural places in the Lower 48.

Experienced Whitewater Rafting In Idaho

For everything on this list, you’re going to want to use a commercial guide. In many cases, these guides will need to had attained an advance permit, which is sometimes done through a lottery in December.

Back to the fun part, let’s stick with the Salmon River. If you choose the Main Salmon, it’s an 80-mile adventure that will take about a week. Rapids are Class III and Class IV. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is 104 miles and also Class III and Class IV rapids. Scenery includes Tappan Falls and Devil’s Tooth.

If you would like to raft the deepest river canyon in North America, you won’t find it at The Grand Canyon in Arizona. You will find it at the Snake River Through Hells Canyon in Idaho. This trip lasts 3-5 days, and the first 30 miles consists of Class III and Class IV rapids. After that, the water calms. You can also take the 80-mile journey for flatwater and trout fishing on the back half.

The Selway River is unique because the United States Forest Service only allows a few launches per day. This Selway River is all about solitude, and you often must book your trip years in advance. It’s a 5-day journey covering 47 miles. The first 30 miles are Class II and Class III rapids. Class IV rapids follow.

Other Idaho whitewater rafting adventures to consider include the Bruneau River, the St. Joe River, and the Lochsa River. All of these rivers include Class IV rapids. They are best suited for people with whitewater rafting experience.

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