The world is full of raftable rivers and each has their own peak season. To borrow a sentiment from the classic surf flick The Endless Summer, with enough time and money, you could spend the rest of your life following the best flows around the globe. Below, we’ve outlined just one way to raft year-round on some of the world’s most incredible waterways.
Table of Contents
A Month-by-Month Guide to Some of the Best River Trips Around the World
January – Chile’s Futaleufù River
Draining from lakes high in the Southern Andes, the Futaleufù turns on in the Southern Hemisphere’s spring and summer. Widely considered one of the best whitewater rivers in the world, the Fu has drawn a community of rafters and kayakers who spend the season boating on it and its nearby tributaries. The region offers some of Chile’s best preserved wilderness, including Pumalin Park, one of the country’s most popular national parks.
February – Fiji’s Upper Navua River Gorge
The steep canyon walls of the Upper Navua are famous for its waterfalls. Raftable year-round, the protected Navua is not a technically difficult whitewater river, but offers a one-of-a-kind scenic journey through a pristine and luscious tropical paradise. In February, typically Fiji’s wetter season, it’s more likely flows on the Navua will offer a more exhilarating pace.
March – Morocco’s Ahansal River
The Ahansal River, which drains from the Atlas Mountains on the edge of the Sahara, has a short raftable window, generally March through April. For the adventurous, the multi-day river trip is a chance to see off-the-beaten-path Morocco and indulge in some fun, splashy Class III rapids.
April – Oregon’s Owyhee River
As the winter chill subsides, flows on Oregon’s Owyhee River jump with snowmelt. With a narrow spring window for the best flows, float trips are typically only able to launch in April and May. Rafters traverse the basalt canyonlands, taking in expansive desert vistas. Expect empty sand beaches, abundant wildlife and riverside hot springs.
May – Utah’s Cataract Canyon
If you crave wild Class IV+ big water, rafting Cataract Canyon during peak snowmelt season is the ticket. Whopper rapids like Big Drop 1, 2 and 3 are some of the most intense in the Southwest. Most people raft the canyon in 4 to 6 days. With the potential for cold water and involuntary swims, this spring rafting trip is not for the faint of heart.
June – Utah’s Yampa River
The good old Yampa is a staple of Utah’s river scene. The 4- or 5-day float passes through Dinosaur National Monument. While the area is famous for its archeology, the stunning red rock geology and big beautiful formations like Steamboat Rock are the star of this area’s wilderness experience.
July – Idaho’s Main Salmon River
What better place to spend hot summer days than the broad sandy beaches of the Main Salmon? The legendary river pitstops make perfect campgrounds and a nice setting for the guide-favorite beach volleyball. A variety of boat options including inflatable kayaks and SUPs, splashy rapids and prime swimming make for an excellent family getaway.
August – Oregon’s Rogue River
August in the Pacific Northwest tends to boast some of the year’s best weather. Warm nights allow for amazing stargazing and the cool clear waters of the Rogue offer the perfect respite from daytime heat. Almost any jumping rock will seem like a worthwhile stopover during this summer float.
September – West Virginia’s Gauley River
Recognized as a top whitewater run in the United States, the Gauley’s flows peak with controlled releases in September and October. The river’s many massive rapids attract rafters and kayakers from all over the world, so don’t expect solitude this time of year, but more of a party atmosphere.
October – Arizona’s Colorado River Through Grand Canyon
Among river guides on the Colorado, it’s no secret that fall is the best season for Grand Canyon rafting. The extreme heat of the summer has passed and the commercial motor season ends in the middle of September, meaning quiet, cooler and laid-back trips are the norm this time of year. Not to mention, hiking in the canyon is at its best.
November – New Zealand’s Kaituna River
A short and intense rafting trip, the Kaituna’s claim to fame is Tutea Falls, a 20-foot waterfall and one of the largest commercially rafted drops in the world. With high flip/swim potential, it’s not a bad idea to take this trip during the island’s warmer season.
December – Peru’s Urubamba River
The rainy season in Peru’s Eastern Cordillera kicks off in December. With it, flows on the Urubamba pick up for a solid Class III whitewater run. The river flows through the mountainous terrain, just below the iconic Machu Picchu, allowing visitors of the citadel a fantastic 1- or 2-day side trip.
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Photos from top: Futaleufu – Neil Robinowitz, Upper Navua – Tom Til, Ahansal River – Anthony D’Angio, Owyhee River – Jilian Lukiwski, Cataract Canyon – Sherry Ott, Yampa River – Taylor Miller, Main Salmon River – James Kaiser, Rogue River – Cindi Stephen, Gauley River – WikiMedia Commons, Colorado River – Josh Miller, Kaituna River – Public Domain, Urubamba River – River Explorers