Whitewater Rafting in California -
Rivers Tributary offers
California Whitewater Rafting - River Descriptions:
5. Giant Gap (no longer available through Tributary)
California Whitewater Rafting - Choosing a river trip by level of difficulty:
For the selection of our whitewater rafting in California by level of difficulty, please go to our Choosing your California Rafting trip which includes guidelines on suitable trips for family rafting, youth groups, corporate groups and the adventurous first timer. Also, the more difficult California rafting trips can be found for the veteran rafter.
California Whitewater Rafting - Choosing a river trip by area:
For the selection of our whitewater rafting in California by specific area, see below: selections:
- Rafting on the American River
- Rafting in the Gold Country
- Rafting near Lake Tahoe
- Rafting near Reno, NV
- Rafting near Carson City, NV
- Rafting near the Napa Wine Country
- Rafting near Sacramento
- Rafting near Davis
- Rafting near Mt. Shasta and Redding
- Rafting near Chico
- Rafting near the Redwoods
- Rafting near San Francisco / Bay Area
- Rafting near Yosemite
- Rafting near Mammoth Lakes
- Rafting near Angels Camp
- Rafting near Los Angeles
- Rafting near San Diego
- Rafting near Las Vegas, NV
California Whitewater Rafting - lesser run rivers:
The rivers listed below are less frequently run, either due to a very short season, or due to changing permit restrictions etc.
The Smith River is a National Wild and Scenic River, which drains the western slopes of the jagged Siskiyou Mountains in the far northwestern corner of California. It is the last great free-flowing California River and these densely forested river canyons lie within the Six Rivers National Forest, and is designated as a National Recreation Area. It is easy to spend 4 or even 5 days rafting and enjoying this wonderful area. A unique river, that few people get to see due to its remoteness and short season. Once seen however, it's the kind of river that attracts those lucky few back, again and again.
The North Fork Smith is a beautiful, pristine 13-mile wilderness run, with dozens of Class 3 and 4 rapids and incredibly clear, clean water. There is unique plant-life, with lacy Port-Orford cedar, orchids, pitcher plants, azaleas and wild flowers. Wilderness camping is possible, weather permitting. After the confluence with the Middle Fork, there are 6 miles of action packed Class 3 rapids on the main Smith, and then the river enters the narrow, steep-walled Oregon Hole Gorge, an optional Class 5 section.
The South Fork Smith offers nearly 12 miles of exhilarating Class 3 pool and drop white water and the mile long South Fork Gorge, another optional Class 5 section. Though not as pristine as the untouched North Fork Smith, the South Fork still provides excellent scenery with fir, cedar, maples and some redwoods, with moss and fern covered canyon walls. The wildlife you might see are black-tailed deer, otters, bald-eagles and black bear. .
The Middle Fork Smith can provide an additional 8 miles of Class 3-4 whitewater on its upper reaches.
Camping is possible among the old growth redwoods in Jedediah Smith State Park or at Forest Service campgrounds east of Gasquet. For more options around Crescent City and Jedediah Smith State Park see Rafting in the Redwoods.
Class II-IV +
30 mi. / 2-3 days
Willits, CA (meeting place)
13 mi. northeast of Willits
3 hours north of San Francisco
The Middle Fork Eel is one of the best long, true wilderness runs in California. Its limited and fairly unpredictable season prevents it from being more popular, as do the more difficult rapids at the end of the run. Commercial trips are few, but suitably qualified private weekend boaters enjoy the isolation and beauty of this run, thus weekday trips will more likely ensure almost total seclusion. The first 26 miles provide Class II rapids through a broad valley. The rolling hills support pine, fir, and other wildflowers. Deer, otters, and even bear frequent the river corridor where large sandy beaches are available for relaxed lunch stops and camping.
The river suddenly changes before its confluence with the Main Eel and it drops into a three mile gorge where Class III and IV rapids provide plenty of excitement. Coal Mine Falls (Class V) is either portaged or run very carefully. Personal gear should be kept to a minimum, but cold weather rain gear and sneakers should always be included as water levels dictate portages around this rapid. The run can be extended for 46 or more miles after the confluence with the Main Eel.
The South Fork Eel is a great winter & early Spring run, best attempted on sunny days after a nice rain storm has passed through the area. Only for the hearty and adventurous. Call for schedule and prices.
Not Currently Available
5-9 miles (1 day)
Knights Ferry, CA (meeting place)
1 ¾ hrs. east of San Jose
2 hrs southeast of Sacramento
During the last 2 decades, we have lost sections of this river, regained them and lost them again. The sad saga of the Stanislaus River has been ongoing since the early 70's, when there was a bitter fight to save this beautiful limestone canyon from the proposed New Melones Dam. The fight was lost in 1982 when the last stretch was buried beneath the rising waters of the reservoir. For a brief period in the late 80's, enough water was released from the dam to allow commercial boating on the more difficult Goodwin Canyon run below the dam. With the drought for several years in the early 90's, the Camp 9 section of the Stanislaus was uncovered from the depths of New Melones reservoir and the fight was on to try and keep this beautiful canyon alive again. Commercial trips were again possible from 1990 through 1994, but unfortunately it was again buried by the reservoirs rising waters. The Goodwin Canyon run below the dam was effected by the drought and restrictive permit limitations enforced by the Army Corps of Engineers and had not been available for many years except for brief periods of higher water releases in the Spring and late fall, but this situation may well be changing again. Call our office for up-to-date information about Goodwin Canyon. Due to very fluctuating flows on the North Fork Stanislaus and the availability of other great springtime runs, Tributary does not offer commercial trips on this section of the Stanislaus.
Not Currently Available
9-18 mi. (1-2 days)
Tobin, CA (meeting place)
1 hr. NE of Oroville & Chico (47 miles)
2 ¼ hrs N. of Sacramento (106 miles)
2 hrs SW of Susanville (93 miles)
The Upper Feather River, the northern most river of the Sierra Nevada Range, is now being offered for the first time as a commercial raft trip. Several runs on the Feather, each approximately nine miles long, offer exciting Class III-IV whitewater near the charming resorts of Tobin and Belden.
The river flows through the Plumas National Forest and borders Buck's Lake Wilderness area with surrounding peaks of over 6,000 feet. The granite walls and domes draw some comparisons to dramatic Yosemite Valley. Though not as pristine as the National Park, due to the presence of a railroad line and State Highway 70, the wilderness is not far. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Hwy. 70 at Belden and other lower trails crisscross up the canyon walls and along side creeks to many wilderness locations such as Buck's Lake, Chip's Creek and Yellow Creek. Highway 70 between Oroville & Quincy is one of the most popular scenic driving routes in the state and is a major portion of the Feather River National Scenic Byway. In the spring the canyon's beauty is reflected in cascading waterfalls of nearly 100' and wildflowers abound.
Before water diversions and controls, these sections of river supported the most famous rainbow trout fishing in the world. Good fishing still abounds however in the river, creeks and lakes of the area.