From the Andes to the Himalayas, the world’s most popular whitewater routes are spread across the globe. High altitude is a dead giveaway when looking for these raging rapids, but with a bit of luck you can find incredible rivers with difficult torrents everywhere from Idaho to Turkey. Hydroelectric projects and dams already killing some of the best whitewater runs in the world and it is clear that many more are on the chopping block. So get out while you can. Many of the rivers on this list may be slowed to a dribble within the next few years.
- Rio Futaleufú, Chile
Often considered the best whitewater river in the world, the Futaleufu in Chile’s Northern Patagonia has mystifying turquoise waters created by the till from glacier run off. Rapids run from Class II-V and attract whitewater enthusiasts from all over the world.
- Colorado River, Arizona
The Colorado, which snakes its way through the legendary Grand Canyon, is whitewater haven. On the 5-20 day trips on this wild Class IV run you’ll get a glimpse of the entire western US from Indian ruins, wildlife, unusual rock formations, and of course cowboys.
- Zambezi River, Zimbabwe
These Class V rapids near Victoria Falls are one of the most intense in the world. The expert only run has long and violent torrents, big descents, and steep gradients.
- Rio Apurímac, Peru
The Apurímac sits in a 9,843 feet deep canyon not far from the South America’s tourist capital of Cusco. Awesome scenery and rare wildlife such as Andean bears, pumas, and otters can occasionally be seen while tackling the Class III-V rapids.
- Karnali River, Nepal
The Karnali is the gnarliest river in Nepal. Besides being longer and larger than any other river in the country, it offers seven days and 110 raftable miles of pristine wilderness. It’s remote too. It can only be reached via a two day hike.
- Tongariro River, New Zealand
The North Island’s Tongariro River offers more than 60 Class III-IV rapids in a volcanic gorge. This is a favorite river of both kayakers and rafters.
- Salmon River, Idaho
Idaho has more whitewater runs than any other state and the Salmon River’s Middle Fork is perhaps the premier stretch in the United States. Raging rapids ranging from Class III-IV run through pristine alpine forests. Permits are required, so going with an outfitter is your best chance at rafting here.
- Rio Cangrejal, Honduras
These class III-V rapids border the virgin rainforest of Pico Bonito National Park. This river is divided into top, upper, and lower sections all easily accessible from the party capital and beach town of La Ceiba.
- Corhu River, Turkey
The Coruh’s Class V rapids in May and June, thanks to melting snow in the Pontic Mountains, are run on multi day trips past ancient ruins and through vast canyons and valleys. This is an extreme run suitable for only die hard whitewater fanatics.
- Chatkal River, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
Tien Shan Mountains are the setting and you’ll be glued to your seat for more than a week through this remote run of Class III-V rapids.