White water rafting, also known as rafting, is one of the more popular adventure tourist attractions. It involves using an inflatable raft to steer down a river (although sometimes lakes can be used). In order to thrill the passengers, this is usually done in different degrees of rough water or white water (hence the name). It is considered an extreme sport and can be very dangerous. There are many different Class levels of white water rafting. Class I contains small waves with no serious obstacles, while Class V features long and violent rapids with big drops, a steep gradient, and an extremely obstructed riverbed.
Pros and Cons
The biggest negative of white water rafting is the risk factor. In 2006 alone, 50 people died because of white water rafting accidents.
Injury rates tend to be fairly low, but this number may be skewed due to a large number of unreported incidents. The fact of the matter is, you are navigating through high speed rapids with large obstacles and violent currents, so the risk of injury or death is certainly a factor. Still, white water rafting companies follow very strict safety protocols which include skilled guides and training courses to ensure everyone is prepared in case something does go wrong. Rafting trips tend to begin with safety orientations to educate riders about any problems that may occur during the ride. It is a great adrenaline rush, however, and it allows you to explore some of the world’s most beautiful rivers and landscapes.
Because of its high number of lakes and rivers, northern Canada is one of the most popular places for white water rafting. The Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers, located on the border of Alaska and Canada, feature icebergs and glaciers that make it one of the most fun rafting courses in the world. The trip offers superb white water, but also provides the unforgettable experience of seeing spawning salmon, moose, and grizzlies in the wild. Magpie River in Canada is another popular destination. The only way to get there is by a float plane, and the trip takes eight days in total, starting with relatively easy rapids as you leave Magpie Lake before ending with Class V rapids down the stunning Magpie Falls. While you camp at night, you will be able to witness the spectacular northern lights called aurora borealis.
The Road Less Travelled
Not all the best white water rafting is done in the great white north, however, as there are plenty of great places all over the world. One of these places is the Noce River in Italy. It tumbles through the remote Val di Sole and is fed by the melting Alpine glaciers. Its spectacular series of Class V rapids offers some of the most exciting, and most difficult, white water rafting in all of Europe. The North Johnstone River in Australia is another relatively underrated location. It offers Class IV and V rapids and takes you through the ancient rain forests of Palmerstone National Park. The course is only accessible by air, so the helicopter ride taking you to the start of the course only adds to the excitement.
Costs and Savings
The cost of white water rafting varies greatly depending on where you wish to go. In general, a single ticket for just rafting costs somewhere between $60 and $100. Travel and accommodation costs can certainly increase that total in a hurry, however. There are numerous packages available that offer rafting along with other experiences, such as ziplining or bungee jumping. Banff adventures, for example, offers a $225 package that includes a BBQ lunch and steak dinner, a day rafting trip, and a pass to the Banff Hot Springs.