6 Top American Rivers for Whitewater Kayaking

Great options from coast to coast.

1. Nantahala River, North Carolina. This mountainous stream plunges down steep rapids and through rock gorges on U. S. Forest Service public land.

2. Payette River, Idaho. This crystal-clear 83-mile tributary to the Snake River is attractive to family groups and famous for ideal summer rafting and kayaking. 

3. Arkansas River, Colorado. This classic Rocky Mountain river southwest from Denver offers more than 100 miles of thrilling descents broken by long, calm stretches.

4. West Branch Penobscot River, Maine. This steep 14-mile course studded with class III to V rapids is the most challenging in the Northeast.

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5. Gauley River, West Virginia. When Summerville Dam opens each fall, experienced kayakers call the Gauley, with 100 major rapids, the “Beast of the East.”

6. Tuolumne River, California. This gorgeous river begins in the high Sierra in Yosemite National Park and flows through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.