Washington’s Best Rafting Rivers
Plus: when to go, what to wear and how far they are from Seattle
By Roddy Scheer
August 2, 2018
If you’re lucky, you’ll see bald eagles overhead on this relatively gentle 9-mile river run, which is punctuated by Class II and III rapids as the river courses through old-growth forest.
Outfitters/guide: Triad River Tours
Distance from Seattle: 90 miles (two-hour drive northeast)
Pass through the stunning ponderosa-pine-lined Black Canyon over Class III and IV rapids on this gnarly eastern Washington ribbon of water.
Outfitters/guide: Methow River Raft and Kayak
Distance from Seattle: 230 miles (four-and-a-half-hour drive northeast across North Cascades Highway, although alternate routes are possible)
Open only in the early fall, the fastest-moving and fastest-dropping river in Washington features 14 miles of practically nonstop Class III+ white water through rugged basalt cliffs.
Outfitters/guide: Alpine Adventures
Distance from Seattle: 145 miles (two-hour, 45-minute drive east of Seattle, near Yakima)
White Salmon River
Covering some of the hairiest and most remote white water in the state, a rafting trip down the White Salmon—a federally designated Wild and Scenic River—delivers “gin clear” water, rolling and tumbling over nearly nonstop Class III and IV rapids.
Outfitters/guides: River Drifters
Distance from Seattle: 230 miles (four-hour drive south to the north side of the Columbia River Gorge)
Waves of Class III and III+ white water combined with long peaceful stretches make this geologically unique river Washington’s most popular river-running destination.
Outfitters/guides: Blue Sky Outfitters
Distance from Seattle: 120 miles (two-hour drive east on U.S. Highway 2)
Novice paddlers and families with smaller kids will love paddling the glacier-gray Class I and II rapids of the Hoh as it passes through some of the most verdant temperate rain forest this side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Outfitters/guides: Rainforest Paddlers
Distance from Seattle: 200 miles (four-hour drive west to Olympic Peninsula interior)