Where there's a river, swiftly moving current, and mountains, there are opportunities for whitewater rafting. Adventure travelers relish the adrenalin rush that accompanies this outdoor activity, and whitewater rafting, which drenches you to the core, is undoubtedly tailor-made for the heavy heat that hovers in July and August. While there are rafting companies in many states, we've picked a few, geographically scattered deals that seem most promising.
To familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of whitewater rafting, Rafting America (www.raftingamerica.com), runs a helpful site that despite its name, offers a directory of companies in the United States, Costa Rica and Chile that run whitewater expeditions. The listings, however, are by no means comprehensive, but a good place to start. The site also provides an explanation of river difficulty ratings, based on the ease of navigation, speed of rapids, and other obstacles one might encounter, such as rocks and boiling eddies. For an educational briefing on whitewater ecology, conservation, and resources, visit American Whitewater (tel. 866/BOAT-4-AW; www.americanwhitewater.org). Additionally, the site lists events it sponsors across the country, such as the Deerfield River Festival in Charlemont MA, from July 29-31, and the Gauley River Festival in Summersville WV, September 23-25. Both events are opportunities for participants to meet fellow rafters on and off the water. Finally, the places we've listed below also offer day rates, too, perfect if you are looking for a good day trip, or if you're new to rafting and want to just dip your feet in the water, so to speak.
New England Outdoor Center (tel. 800/766-7238; www.neoc.com) runs three different trips in Maine. You don't have to jump on a swiftly moving raft though -- those who aren't thrill seekers per se but who may be interested inn taking in the beautiful mountain scenery can go on what NEOC calls a "gentle float." There are also different trips geared toward different skill levels, too. Upping the ante, there are packages that NEOC offers that include accommodations, anywhere form a campsite, cabin, houses or b&b stays. Kennebec River Rafting outdoor Adventure package, for example, offers the best deal between Sunday through Friday. For rafting excursions until July 14, the package start at $135-$137 for a campsite for one or more people, $179 per person for Sterling Inn bed and breakfast (based on double occupancy), to Lakeside Cabins (based on six people), for $201-$214 per person. Saturday prices are considerably higher. No matter where you sleep, the packages include two nights of accommodations, two breakfasts, one dinner, and use of all amenities available. The price go up as the mercury rises, between July 15 and August 28, for example, the campsite rates jump to $150-$152, Sterling Inn up to $199, and Lakeside cabins to $216-$229.
The journey is the company's most popular trip, as the river is located in the heart of Maine's whitewater country, with 12 miles of swiftly moving water. The company says this run is a good choice for novice rafters and families; the minimum age is 10 for the upper part of the river and 7 for the lower river. Additionally, the company runs "Big Water Runs" when the dam opens and the water flow is twice its normal speed. There are packages geared toward July 11 run -- lodging for Sunday and Monday nights; rafting on Monday, ranging from $155 (campsite) to $325 per person (Silver Cove Guest House), depending of course on the number of people in your group. Two more big water runs take place this season, September 10 and 24; check the site for details.
In Idaho, try the Warren River Expeditions (tel. 800/765-0421; www.raftidaho.com) in Salmon, located in the northwest corner of the state, for years of experience and a trip that includes their famous "river cuisine" -- everything from smoked salmon to eggs Benedict! (They even sell their own cookbook.) The trips run on Main Salmon River and Middle Fork River. They generally offer longer excursions, such as the six-day Main Salmon trip, which costs $1,675 per adult and $1,256 per child under age 14, led by trained guides who can point out wildlife, talk about local lore, and teach you the ropes. We admit that the trips are a tad expensive, but they include everything you'll need -- tents, rafting gear, all meals except lunch the days you arrive and leave. Departures include July 11, 27, August 12 and 28, all for the same price. They restrict their trips to children 6 and up. Lodging during your trips includes two-person tents -- you can bring your own sleeping bag, or rent one from them for $25. The company can help you plan your transportation to Salmon from the Boise airport -- at 150 miles away, it's the closest -- so there's no need to worry about renting a car.
Adventures Mountain River, (tel. 800/822-1386; www.raftmrt.com) based in Hico WV, has been running whitewater rafting trips in the New River Gorge and Upper Gauley Rivers for 32 years. Half-day and full-day trips leave daily so there's always something to choose from. Their New River overnight trip includes continental breakfast, full day raft trip, grilled dinner and one night camping at their exclusive Thurmond overnight spot, a campsite with tents, right on the riverbanks. Day two is spent in the lower part of the river, and you start off with a full country style breakfast, full day rafting and lunch. Sunday and Monday rates are just $194; Friday-Sat and Sat-Sun are $244 per person; minimum age is 12. They also run specials around the Fourth of July, and a two-day, women only, women-guided river package, called "Women in the Wilderness," July 30-31, with one overnight, for $244. The company also runs other trips, including Paddle and Pedal, which incorporates rafting the New River and then a seven-mile mountain bike trek the next day, on an old railroad trail, to Cunard. The prices are $169 for Friday to Saturday and Sundays through Thursdays, $189 for Saturday-Sunday. If you're experienced and looking for a challenge, the Gauley River, with over 100 rapids in 26 miles, is built for thrill-seekers.
California's Whitewater Voyages (tel. 800/400-7238; www.whitewatervoyages.com) has been around since 1975 and runs dozens of trips on about a half-dozen rivers all over the state, ranging from one day to several. They're currently offering special discounts on family rafting travel -- specifically, 50 percent off the adult fare for every child 16 and younger who is accompanied by a full-fare paying adult on a weekday. This offer is only good for trips on what the company terms "California's two best family rivers" -- Kings and South Fork American Rivers. The latter is a class III, or beginner river, with numerous waves, sometimes high and irregular, rocks, eddies and rapids with clear but narrow passages. Kings River is another class III river with long rapids and many of them -- over 40 -- and a sandy beach base camp at the end of the run. They offer a Kings River "Ride the glide" half-day or one-day trip, from April through mid-July. The trip starts at the boundary of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, about an hour and half east of Fresno, and includes views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Half day trip is $99 from Monday through Friday; $109 for Saturday and Sunday. One-day trip costs $129 Monday through Friday and $159 for Saturday and Sunday. The company also periodically runs discounts for seniors, youth, weekday family trips, and holiday weekends. During Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends, trips on the Kings South Fork American, Middle Fork American, and Tuolumne Rivers are 15 percent off.
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