The Petawawa River is a popular whitewater river in Ontario, Canada.

A whitewater river is any river where its gradient and/or flow create rapids or whitewater turbulence. This list only focuses on rivers which are suitable for whitewater sports such as canoeing, kayaking, and rafting.






In the north, most rivers in India descend from the Himalayas, the highest mountains on Earth: cold glacial waters thunder down the rocks, bringing with them ample whitewater rapids to encounter. The water here is high volume and can be very violent in the early spring. Hence, extreme caution must be taken if one has not mastered paddling skills for rapids above class III. Caution should otherwise be exercised near the Tibetan border as this is area is a place of extreme political dispute, on land and on water.

South India

Towards the south, all rivers originate from the Western Ghats. Most of them can only be paddled in the monsoon season (June–October), while some others can be paddled year-round as they are dependent on dam releases. Only a small percentage of the rivers have recorded descents, and there is a vast potential for first descents.

Rivers in Karnataka





United Kingdom

Whitewater rivers in the UK are typically low volume and technical. In England and Wales rivers are typically less than 20 m3/s, and some are run with less than 1 m3/s (usually these involve skidding the kayak down steep rockslides and small waterfalls). In Scotland there are also a few bigger volume (up to about 50 m3/s) rivers. Like many places in Europe, England, Scotland and Wales have been subject to centuries of rivers getting dammed, weired, or diverted in ways that suit agriculture or land development and the natural flow has been altered heavily in many regions; there are many orphan dams or sites intended for grist mills that no longer have any function but obstruct the water. Some areas of the island Great Britain occupies has enough gradient to create rapids and waterfalls, but unfortunately ages of damming prevents the full volume of water and snowmelt from reaching the lower reaches: Clywedog Dam holds back approximately 50,0000 megalitres of water alone on the River Severn, and Parliament granted weirs and locks to be placed upon that river multiple times during the 19th century, some of which are still used.[3] Scotland is famous for its rocky north, but many rivers have been dammed in Scotland over the course of the 20th century to create hydroelectric power, with the trend still continuing.[4]

Almost all runs in England and Wales need recent rain to be at a paddleable level, and many can only be run immediately after heavy rain. In Scotland, some bigger rivers can be run for weeks after rain although as with the rest of the country, most need recent wet weather. The paddling season is year-round but the rivers are more often runnable in winter (the wettest months of the year being December and January). Exceptions to this include rivers which have artificially maintained flows from reservoirs. On these rivers, flow may increase in dry weather as more water is released. The Afon Tryweryn is one example in Wales.

Most runs offer only a few kilometres of whitewater; often several rivers can be run on a wet day. Some rivers consist of only a single rapid. Only a few rivers (such as the Findhorn and Spean in the Scottish Highlands) have more than a days' worth of paddling, and most of this tends to be grade III or less.

The River Dart excepted, there is no natural whitewater in the (mainly flat) south and east of England. Here whitewater paddlers often go playboating at man made weirs. Hurley weir on the River Thames west of London is probably the most popular.[citation needed] There are several artificial whitewater courses, where water is pumped or diverted through a concrete channel containing obstacles to create rapids. There is a 28 m3/s artificial whitewater course on the Trent at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham (at the National Watersports Centre), a 5 m3/s course on the Tees in Teesside, and smaller courses on the Nene at Northampton, and at Cardington.

In England Commercial rafting is limited to artificial whitewater courses (where it often provides the majority of the courses' income). Bigger and more reliable rivers can be found in Scotland and Wales, in particular the River Findhorn, River Orchy, River Spey, River Tay and the Afon Tryweryn.

There are several sites off the west coast of Britain where strong tidal currents channeled between islands create big volume sections of whitewater. These include the Bitches in Pembrokeshire in Wales, and the Falls of Lora on the west coast of Scotland.

Legal access to whitewater is a big issue in England and Wales. The law is currently unclear, resulting in two schools of thought followed.

In Scotland, like most of the rest of the world, access to whitewater is legal and has never been illegal. It has been enshrined in law in the recent Scottish Land Reform act. The Right to Roam act in England explicitly excluded rivers. The British Canoe Union is running the Rivers Access Campaign to raise awareness and bring about changes in the law to permit public access to all inland rivers in England and Wales.


Whitewater rivers in the Alps are mainly medium volume glacier-fed rivers with long continuous rapids and few big drops.[citation needed] The season is short (two or three months in early summer when the snow and glaciers are melting) but the whitewater is reliable in this period. Tourists come from around Europe to kayak and raft–the most common centres are Briançon in the French Alps, the area around Landeck in Austria, and Bovec in Slovenia.[citation needed]





France (Corsica)


The best time to go rafting and kayaking in Greece is in Spring when the river flow and weather are ideal.

Italy (Apennines)

Spring is the best time for rafting and kayaking in Southern Italy as the currents are stronger.


Rivers in Montenegro all come from high mountains close to the sea. They have natural riverbeds with very different sections from steep creeking to large volume. They have best water in spring, but some are runnable throughout the year.

Tara river, Kolašin, Mojkovac, Žabljak, Pljevlja, Plužine 130 km, Durmitor National Park Class 2-5

Moraca river, Kolašin, Podgorica, Class 2-5

Lim river, Plav, Andrijevica, Berane, Bijelo polje, Class 2-4

Cijevna, Podgorica, Class 3


Similar to its Swedish neighbour, Norwegian whitewater rivers are typically steep pool-drop rivers with many waterfalls, and are run mainly by experienced kayakers. There are also bigger (sometimes glacier-fed) rivers which are sometimes rafted. The season lasts all summer, although some rivers only run after recent rain. Norwegian waterfalls regularly feature on extreme kayaking videos.


The best time for whitewater in Portugal is in Spring during the higher river flow.


White water sport in Russia is quite popular,[citation needed] but the vast majority of people uses catamarans for these purposes. The best period for whitewater is May and July–August. Some rivers are possible to raft in June and September.

Here is a list of the most popular rivers:[citation needed]





Kola Peninsula

Novgorod Oblast

Putorana Plateau





Studenica river (left tributary of Ibar) is very attractive for whitewater kayaking (III-V)

Bosnia and Herzegovina





Like the Alps, whitewater in the Pyrenees is best in early summer when the snow and glaciers are melting.


The Swedish whitewater rivers are mainly big water and is located in the middle and north parts of Sweden. One of the most spectacular rivers is Vindelaelven and particularly Trollforsarna III-VI, where one Euro cup competition was held in 2007.

The main information channel for Swedish white water is Forsguiden,

North America


Canada has a varied terrain that supports many kinds of environments, with the majority of whitewater found in three areas: the mountainous Rockies in Alberta, the smaller Eastern forests of Quebec, Ontario, and some of the Maritimes, and the volcanic influenced geology of British Columbia. This creates the conditions necessary for whitewater: gradient, volume, and pressure. Like its neighbor to the south, First Nations had used the river systems as personal highways and built dugout canoes to run rapids; later French Canadian fur trappers used the same technique to collect beaver pelts and form small settlements.

Canadian whitewater rivers are characterized by the dramatic difference between the high water spring run-off and the summer low water volume; the classification of rapids therefore changes from spring to summer. It also is highly subject to the change of seasons, where many places are frozen solid by October and, for example, runs that are ready in late May in the neighboring US Pacific Northwest are still too dangerous to attempt in British Columbia or too cold: the spring run-off of the glaciers has either not finished or the landscape is not fully thawed.

Most of the land in Canada is not privately owned and likewise neither are the rivers. Many places in which water thunders through the terrain are on land that is either protected or very remote, so knowledge of first aid and the local wildlife is paramount. As with the United States to the South, rattlesnakes, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, wolves, and two members of the lynx family are very much active at the height of rafting and kayaking season, and they do use the water as a source of food and sustenance. On multi day excursions in The Northwest Territories, British Columbia, or Alberta it is extremely important to know or learn to coexist with the grizzly bears that live there; this is particularly true when it is salmon season. Caution should be used whenever camping in bear country, and learning how to properly store food or anything with a scent is paramount to avoiding conflict.


British Columbia

For more, see Whitewater recreation in British Columbia.




Northwest Territories

The whitewater rivers in the Northwest Territories are remote and require access and egress by float plane or helicopter. Most are over or close to 300 km in length from the put in to the take out, and therefore are multi-day expeditions.

United States

The United States offers varied terrain and conditions through which rivers pass, everything from the deserts of the southwest to glacial peaks in Alaska to Appalachian creeks that thunder through the glades to even a few that run right through the downtown sections of small cities and isolated hamlets.

Legally, most rivers and creeks are not privately held. They are the property of the nation and its people and are overseen by individual state governments and a handful of federal government agencies in Washington, DC like the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Dams may be held on a contract basis with the federal or state government, for example the energy company PG&E has dams in the Sierra Nevada range near Sacramento in California and this affects water volume. (Other entities like the Tennessee Valley Authority in the East have similar arrangements, and the water volume is lower than it should be naturally in the East in many sections of the Appalachians.) The Army Corps of Engineers and the operators of the dams themselves usually schedule releases in advance and this information is readily available to the public upon request.

Many whitewater rivers and creeks exist in rather rural or wild conditions when compared to parts of Europe and thus are located in places where animals can bite back or harm visitors, including children and dogs. (Some require a substantial hike through forest, desert, or mountains to reach the put in and cannot be reached by car at all.) In no particular order or regard to specific geography, they would include grizzly bears, black bears, moose, bull elk, porcupines, cougars, bobcats, more than 15 species of rattlesnakes on both sides of the Mississippi, scorpions, copperheads, water mocassins, and coral snakes. Beavers are sometimes extant on rivers but prefer to build in the calmer sections where there are only minor riffles and their dams are easily portaged or surmounted.

Eastern United States

There are several places in the East where the water roars, everything from big rivers like the Delaware River to creeks that dive over large waterfalls, many exceeding 30 feet (9.1 m). In fact, there used to be more of them but over time some of these have been dammed or altered; the upper portions of the Mississippi River near St. Paul Minnesota, for example, used to have very large rapids and several waterfalls.[7] The Mississippi, the divide between East and West itself, used to be a much more wild and turbulent river[8] with more violent spots in its drainage area past Cairo Illinois with the Des Moines Rapids and the Sauk Rapids being either larger than today or undammed.

New England

The following are some of the rivers in New England that are popular.

New York

The Southeast is the section of the nation where the Appalachian Mountains have their highest peaks.[9] In most cases the size of the water is smaller than the West, however, some of the finest whitewater in the East is here, especially good for kayakers.[10]

Western United States

In the western United States, the more noted rivers, such as the Grand Canyon have much greater water volume and therefore require a different set of paddling skills. Western rafters also navigate many small, low volume rivers, some with much steeper descents than eastern rivers; however, since the mountains are newer in the west, the hazard from undercut rocks, a problem in the east, is replaced by more frequent log jams precipitated by logging activities near the rivers.

The big-water rivers usually do not require the precision paddling of smaller rivers, but have larger rapids and longer wilderness trips due to the greater length and water flow of the big rivers. The smaller rivers and creeks boated by most rafters offer many one- or two-day trips with difficulty levels from I to VI.

In the West, some paddlers start on the American in California and work their way up to the Rogue and Illinois in Oregon, the Tuolumne (California), the Salmon in Idaho, the Snake, and then the big-water rivers like the Green and Colorado through the Grand Canyon (Arizona), the Fraser in British Columbia, and many Alaskan streams.


Main article: List of California rivers

California has some of the most challenging whitewater runs in the United States as well as several rivers with sections that are safe for families with children who wish to go rafting. Several rivers in California are fed by the snowmelt of the Sierra Nevada mountain range as well as natural springs in high mountainous areas; some rivers flow directly through protected land and foreign visitors should be strongly warned that early spring runs can be very dangerous; the normal classification cranks up much higher turning some runs into death traps for even Olympic level whitewater enthusiasts. A primary example would be Cherry Creek, a class V-V+ river in normal conditions: this creek has had a number of fatalities to its name for unwary kayakers because the water cuts through high vertical walls of granite: there is no way out except down the river and certain sections cannot be portaged.[14][15][16] If the water volume gets too high, death is certain. It is for this reason most locals will not willingly even try to ride it before June.

Colorado and Utah

Main article: List of Colorado rivers


Main article: List of Idaho rivers


Main article: List of Illinois rivers


Main article: List of rivers of Minnesota


Main article: List of rivers of Montana


Main article: List of Oregon rivers

River flow information is available from the USGS and Pat Welch River gauges
River forecast data available through National Weather Service

Popular whitewater rivers in Oregon:[23][24]


The most popular runs in Washington are listed below.


Main article: List of Wyoming rivers



New Zealand

South America





  1. ^ "India's effort to clean up sacred but polluted Ganga River". PBS NewsHour. 2020-02-11. Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  2. ^ "Subscribe to The Australian | Newspaper home delivery, website, iPad, iPhone & Android apps". Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  3. ^ Dobrzynski, Jan (2016-03-15). River Severn: From Source to Sea. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 9781445649054.
  4. ^ "Work to begin on biggest dam in Scotland in years".
  5. ^ "Home".
  6. ^ Niagara Whitewater Park Association
  7. ^ "Restoring rapids to the Mississippi river gorge". Friends of the Mississippi River. 2018-04-09. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  8. ^ Leverett, Frank (1899). "Lower Rapids of the Mississippi" (PDF). The Journal of Geology. 7 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1086/608284. JSTOR 30054830.
  9. ^ "Mount Mitchell".
  10. ^ "Southeast whitewater".
  11. ^ "Chattahoochee River offers longest urban whitewater rafting course in world". Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  12. ^ "Chattooga Wild and Scenic River".
  13. ^ Russell Fork Gorge
  14. ^ "Fatality in Upper Cherry 7/2/2016 - Mountain Buzz". Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  15. ^ "Cherry Creek (Upper)". Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  16. ^ "Pro kayaker dies on perilous stretch of Upper Cherry Creek". The Union Democrat. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Cassady, Jim; Calhoun, Fryar (1995). California Whitewater: A Guide to the Rivers (3 ed.). Berkeley, CA: Fieldston Co. ISBN 9780961365028.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Cassady, Jim; Cross, Bill; Calhoun, Fryar (1994). Western Whitewater from the Rockies to the Pacific: A River Guide for Raft, Kayak, and Canoe (1 ed.). Berkeley, CA: North Fork Press. ISBN 9780961365042.
  19. ^ a b "Kings, N. Fork: Dinkey Creek to Main Kings Confluence". Retrieved 2019-07-28.
  20. ^ "National Wild And Scenic River System: Kings River, California". Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  21. ^ "American Whitewater".
  22. ^ "California whitewater Clavey River".
  23. ^ "Oregon River Flows". Oregon Whitewater Association. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  24. ^ "Rivers". Oregon Kayaking. Retrieved 2011-10-16.