Top 10 whitewater rafting locations in the United States

Whitewater Rafting is a thrilling and challenging water sport that can be fun for a wide range of ages and abilities. Be realistic about your skill level before choosing a rafting adventure, challenging rivers should be approached with the utmost of respect and care. Although guides can help lead you down the river, they cannot make up the difference for a beginner on an advanced river trip.

With that said, the following 10 rivers are some of the best the United States has to offer.

1. Colorado River. What could be more exciting than whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon? Much of the enchanting natural beauty of the ever-changing area is accessible only by the river. Hidden waterfalls and side canyons make this a great way to begin, or end a trip to the Grand Canyon.

2. Rogue River—Oregon. One of the most dramatic rivers in the U.S., this unique location is protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of Congress. Expect an uncrowned, pristine environment to enjoy the excitement of the wild Rogue River.

3. The Salmon River. Idaho is home to this wilderness area with more than 100 rapids spanning the 105-mile stretch of beauty. The river drops a full 3,000 feet through the spectacular River of No Return. The longest un-dammed river in the United States offers a variety of experiences depending upon when you choose to go. Late June and July have bigger, colder whitewater due to the snow melt. Going in late July and August, you will have warmer water and less powerful rapids.

4. West Virginia—Summersville Dam. When the dam releases the cool clear water from the Summersville Lake, the steep drops create the perfect rapids. This area has a lot to offer in addition to rafting, you can ride a zip line, ride horses or go rock climbing as well.

5. Skykomish River in Washington. This Class V river is ideal for experienced thrill seekers. It is called the Big Daddy of Washington whitewater runs. Expect a relentless series of rapids leading you to the fabled, "Boulder Drop."

6. Penobscot River in Maine. Ranging from Class I to III rapids, this area allows rafters a chance to enjoy the views and smaller waterfalls. It is also has the reputation of fast-paced rapids and remarkable scenery.

7. Montana—Great Rivers. Not for the faint of heart, this crystal clear river offers a spectacular class II-IV whitewater experience. Rapids along the way are named "Bone Crusher", "Jaws", "Pumphouse"—and others just as intimidating.

8. Chattooga River—along the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina borders. Used as one of the locations for the movie "Deliverance," this wild river flows southwest to form the natural border between South Carolina and Georgia. It was the first river to be designated "Wild & Scenic" by Congress.

9. California—Kings, Merced, Tuolumne and American Rivers. California is home to exciting trips near Yosemite, Kings Canyon National Park and Lake Tahoe, all incredible locations in their own right, but coupled with the exhilaration of the rapids make them spectacular. The American River in California is also known as the Gold Rush river and is one of the most popular whitewater rafting runs in the West.

10. Alskek—Alaska. The sheer size of the waters and the remote area make this is a truly thrilling whitewater rafting choice. What begins as a small, rushing river in the Yukon to the massive size of the Alsek River combined with the Tatshenshini to the Alskek lake.

A thrill-seeker at heart, whitewater rafting is part of the perfect vacation for Sylvie Branch.

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Updated Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011