Whitewater River RaftingNews & Blog

High Water Spring Rafting in the Pacific Northwest 2023 Edition

What is high water rafting?

High water rafting trips are swift moving with big wave trains and splashes, they are a lot of fun, but also bring out additional challenges and a higher probability of unintentional swims. Higher water flows mean that the river is moving faster and with more density than at regular flows. Trips will get your adrenaline pumping & are challenging. These trips also offer unique views in places not accessible otherwise. The gratification and often personal accomplishment after these trips is amazing. 

What makes high water rafting seasons special?

High water rafting doesn’t happen every year, but when snowpack is high, then springtime brings on the snowmelt and the rivers are engorged with more water flowing thru them.  The winter snowpack reports are just through the roof for Northern California and Oregon. There are certain river trip opportunities that open up, some that we haven’t seen in several years because they are not always available.

Class IV and V rivers like the Cal Salmon, North Yuba & North Fork American, become available with longer and more reliable rafting seasons. Trips on the Yuba and North Fork American are not only a favorite to our guides, but also sought after by many rafters all over the country. Northern California offers some of the best rafting in the world and season like this are epic for high water boaters to come and experience these trips since they have longer seasons.  

Other free flowing, more mellow rivers, like the East Fork Carson and Owyhee Rivers also become available and more reliable for planning trips. These multi-day adventures are still fast flowing and splashy, but offer a less intense experience as rapids are still in the Class II-III+ range. 

Does high water only affect free flowing rivers?

High water seasons even alter regular dam controlled river trips. There is often so much snowmelt coming down the watershed that the reservoirs overflow and the dams are no longer in control of how much water is coming down the river. Our South Fork American River near Sacramento will be seeing higher flows possibly into August for the 2023 season. This is based on comparing historical data which is matching an epic snowpack in 1983

What will high water rafting be like this year?

The snowpack is holding strong this season, and we haven’t seen the spring melt begin yet…but it’s coming! When the weather warms up in the mountains, that’s when we are going to see higher flows. For most of our rivers, we anticipate this will begin mid-April and last until July & possibly even August. River trips may include stopping to scout rapids and additional time reviewing what to do in case of a swim. 

Who can come rafting on high water trips?

Participants on trips should be in good health, strong swimmers, with a high sense of adventure. First timers are welcome on several high water rafting trips, but most Class V trips require previous Class IV paddling experience.

It is important to stay calm if you do end up in the river. We always run our trips with the highest level of safety precautions taken. 

Help planning for your high water rafting trip:

Having the right gear can make or break your day on the river. Guests should dress in quick drying clothing and absolutely NO COTTON! Shoes are a must a polypro, wool or neoprene socks are ideal. Sandals are usually OK in the summer, but with colder water, we don’t recommend them for high water trips. A spring rafting gear package is available to rent for your trip. This includes a 3mm farmer John wetsuit, fleece long sleeve, and a splash top. All our trips are outfitted with high end gear, helmets & PFDs are always included. 

We are here to help! You can use our choosing your trip page to help guide you on your own time, or fill out our contact us form to and we will be able to suggest a river experience to suit you best!