By April Orcutt
June 16, 2013
Despite the drought that plagued Southern California last winter, river rafters can still get their paddles wet: Parts of Northern California and other Western states got the rain and snow that missed SoCal.
California's Kings, Kern, Kaweah, Merced and Tuolumne rivers have shortened or nonexistent rafting seasons this year, thanks to the drought, but many rivers in the West have plenty of water for rafting, kayaking and tubing.
Here's a sampling of outfitters that are running rafting trips on rivers in Northern California and the West as well as on other rivers predicted to have good flows through August and maybe even September.
Some companies also offer trips by kayak, inner tube or cataraft, a two-pontoon high-performance craft that's a cross between a kayak and a raft.
W.E.T. River Trips, California
Trips on the South and Middle forks of the American River will run on schedule with one- to three-day options. For more adventurous paddlers, some Middle Fork trips include the Middle Fork American Tunnel Shoot Run, in which rafters first shoot through North America's only Class IV (advanced) man-made rapids and then through a tunnel. For the less adventurous, its Class II-III trips on the Klamath River are more scenic than white water.
Sacramento, (888) 723-8938, http://www.raftwet.com. One-day South Fork trip from $119.
Russian River Adventures, California
Sixty miles north of San Francisco, the Russian River is fed by Lakes Sonoma and Mendocino so the summer flow is fairly consistent. This company offers lazy, child- and dog-friendly, self-guided floats past redwoods and vineyards. No rapids here.
Healdsburg, (800) 280-7627, http://www.russianriveradventures.com. Half-day trips from $42.50.
Hualapai River Runners, Arizona
Instead of running casinos, the Hualapai tribe runs rivers — specifically the Colorado River in the western section of the Grand Canyon. Its one-day trips offer a gentler river experience than the traditional Grand Canyon screamin'-rapids ride. The trip ends with a helicopter ride to the top of Grand Canyon West where, for $54, visitors can walk on the U-shaped Skywalk — a glass walkway cantilevered 75 feet out and 4,000 feet above the river.
Peach Springs, (888) 868-9378, http://www.grandcanyonwest.com. Tour from $269 plus $79 transportation fee.
Red River Adventures, Utah
This Moab, Utah-based company will run all its one- to six-day trips on the Colorado, Green and Salmon rivers in Utah and Idaho "until people quit coming because it's too cold," said owner Carl Dec. Its Dolores River trips are canceled this year because of low water.
Moab, (877) 259-4046, http://www.redriveradventures.com. Family-friendly Fishwater full-day trip, $75 per adult and $65 per child.
Canyonlands Field Institute, Utah
A nonprofit aimed primarily at getting schoolchildren and teens into the wilderness to learn about geology, biology and archaeology, CFI also runs adult, family and customized science-oriented raft and canoe trips on the Colorado, Green and San Juan rivers. Guides are trained naturalists. Its motto: "Not an adrenaline rush, but a mind and heart hush."
Moab, (800) 860-5262, http://www.cfimoab.org. Custom three-day/three-night Colorado River trip, $200 per day per adult.
Mountain Whitewater Descents, Colorado
The Cache la Poudre River, Colorado's only National Wild and Scenic River, flows through a narrow canyon as it drops 7,000 feet from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to its confluence with the South Platte River. The river's unusual name is said to have come from French fur trappers who were caught in a snowstorm in the 1820s and had to hide (cache) their gunpowder (poudre).
Fort Collins, (888) 855-8874, http://www.raftmwd.com. Poudre Splash half-day trip $49.
Sun Country Tours, Oregon
This central Oregon outfitter has several choices for half- and full-day white-water trips on three nearby rivers — the Deschutes, McKenzie and North Umpqua. Each river flows through a different setting: desert canyons, lava flows, rock spires, pines, aspens or mossy old-growth forest. Tubing and stand-up paddleboarding are other options. Sun Country also works with local resorts to create custom trips for guests. Bonus: American Airlines has added daily direct flights from LAX to Redmond/Bend.
Bend, Ore.; (800) 883-8842, http://www.suncountrytours.com. McKenzie River half-day trip $82 per person, $76 for kids ages 6-12.
Salmon River Rafting Co., Idaho
Under one name or another this outfitter has been around since the mid-1950s. Current owner Wayne Johnson has been a river guide for 40 years, 30 of those on the Salmon. The company runs week-long camping trips through late August and then switches to one-week adults-only trips through the end of September.
Salmon; (877) 734-6099, http://www.salmonrafting.com. Eight-day trips from $2,200 per adult.
Canadian Outback Adventures & Events, British Columbia and Alberta
"We're having absolutely no problems with drought," said Philip Keen, director of corporate development. Rafting trips run on the Elaho, Cheakamus and Squamish rivers in the Coast Range and the Kananaskis, Bow and Athabasca rivers near the Rockies.
(800) 565-8735, http://www.canadianoutback.com/adventures/rafting.php. Family friendly Cheakamus Splash half-day trip $87 per adult, $59 for kids ages 5-16.
Denali Outdoor Center, Alaska
Guides answer questions about the geology, history, flora, fauna, wildflowers and whatever else rafters want to know about the area on its "scenic" (Class I and II) and white-water (Class III and IV) trips on the Nenana River. The river borders Denali National Park so wildlife encounters are always possible.
Denali National Park, (888) 303-1925, http://www.denalioutdoorcenter.com. Nenana River half-day trip $117 for age 14 and up.
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