Students have fun in the rapids while whitewater rafting in India.

River Rafting Trips & Courses

Camera TC Rammelkamp

Rafting Trips

Explore the Thrills of a River Rafting Trip with NOLS

Embark on an exhilarating whitewater rafting adventure! Our rafting trips will equip you with the river skills needed to lead successful and enjoyable river trips. Learn to assess whitewater, practice rigging rafts, learn the fundamentals of swiftwater rescue, and practice your leadership skills. Discover the excitement and educational value of rafting courses with NOLS, where each journey offers opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, and an unforgettable wilderness experience.

Why Choose NOLS for Whitewater Rafting Trips

An instructor looks down the river while steering an oar rig raft.

Comprehensive River Rafting Curriculum

The NOLS river trip curriculum offers a blend of instructor-led hands-on training and immersive experiences, catering to participants of all skill levels. From mastering efficient paddle strokes to understanding river dynamics, you’ll hone your ability to navigate rapids by practicing basic rescue techniques. Each aspect of our curriculum is thoughtfully crafted to empower you on your river rafting journey. Get ready to challenge your limits and emerge as a competent and confident river rafter and leader.
Instructors teaching good risk assessment when out on the Salmon River rapids

Experienced River Rafting Instructors

Our experienced rafting instructors are dedicated to helping you learn and grow during your NOLS journey. With extensive experience with both outdoor education and whitewater rafting, our instructors provide you with top-notch instruction and guidance. They'll share their knowledge, techniques, and real-world insights, empowering you to navigate challenging and exhilarating conditions on rivers.
Smiling NOLS staff member paddles an oar rig on the Salmon River in Idaho with mountains behind.

Unique Whitewater Rafting Destinations

Our courses allow you access to once-in-a-lifetime whitewater rafting destinations, like the coveted and majestic Salmon River. Within these amazing wilderness locations, you'll explore remote and breathtaking whitewater settings while gaining insight into how to be a responsible steward of our precious natural resources. Through hands-on field experiences and expert instruction, you'll apply Leave No Trace principles in order to minimize your impact on these wild river ecosystems, fostering a deep appreciation for local river ecology.

Small Groups for Enriched Learning and Growth

Recognizing that rafting inherently thrives on cooperation, our focus on smaller groups enriches the personal and community growth experience. Within these intimate settings, you'll forge profound connections with your fellow rafters, fostering an environment where trust and camaraderie flourish. Collaboratively tackling the river's challenges cultivates not only exceptional teamwork skills but also a profound sense of community. These human-centered skills extend beyond the river's edge, proving invaluable in various aspects of life.
Students pull their boats onto shore while river rafting in the Teton Valley.

Holistic Wilderness Leadership and Risk Management

Our whitewater courses not only teach paddling and rowing skills, but they also foster lifelong leadership skills. We cultivate adaptability and resilience by emphasizing wilderness leadership, critical thinking, collaboration, and risk management. Our instructors ensure your well-being on the river by adhering to risk management standards, rigorous protocols, and emergency response methods while empowering you with the tools to effectively assess and manage risk on your own.

Explore NOLS Rafting Trips

Students navigate a whitewater rapid on the Salmon River in a paddle raft.

Salmon River Rafting for Adults

Embark on an 8-day expedition down Idaho's Salmon River. This experience enriches your outdoor skills and builds leadership qualities. Gain experience with paddle rafts and oar rigs, progressing from calm waters to challenging rapids. Delve into river rescue and risk management, all while exploring the region's history and ecology, including sandy beaches and riverside hot springs. This journey is not only about building outdoor expertise but also about honing your personal leadership style. Learn effective communication, decision-making, and group dynamics in a small community setting, bringing valuable leadership skills back to your work and daily life.
Teenage students smile for a group shot on a Salmon River rafting course.

Salmon River Adventure for Youth

Join a two-week adventure on Idaho's Main Salmon River in The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, tailored for teens aged 14 and 15. Conquer the river's whitewater using paddle rafts and oar rigs, learning paddling techniques, guiding fundamentals, and advanced river navigation. Immerse yourself in the wilderness, surrounded by diverse wildlife such as gray wolves, peregrine falcons, black bears, and bald eagles. Camp on sandy riverbanks and soak in natural riverside hot springs. Embrace leadership growth by taking on different roles in the group. Return home with newfound friendships, unforgettable memories, and leadership skills applicable in the great outdoors and everyday life.
Course participants paddle in a raft and on kayaks on the river

Whitewater River Expedition - 16 and 17 only

Unlock the thrill of the Green River in Utah, a birthplace of whitewater boating. Run through over 100 miles of stunning canyons, learning kayaking and rafting skills while navigating rapids like Disaster Falls and Hell's Half-Mile. This course takes you beyond paddling and rowing. You'll develop as a leader by rotating through different leadership roles daily, enhancing decision-making, communication, and resilience. Forge your unique leadership style that you can apply to any situation in personal, academic, and professional settings. This wilderness adventure, tailored for ages 16-17, is the ultimate blend of challenge and personal growth.

River Rafting FAQs

  • What is paddle rafting, and how does it differ from other water sports?

    Paddle rafting, specifically in whitewater, is an outdoor recreational activity that involves navigating a river's rapids and turbulent waters using an inflatable raft. Unlike other water sports such as kayaking or canoeing, paddle rafting typically involves a group of people paddling together in a larger raft, making it a social and team-oriented experience.

  • What are the different classes of river rapids, and how are they classified?

    River rapids are generally classified into different classes based on their difficulty and risk level. The International Scale of River Difficulty uses classes I to VI:

    • Class I: Easy, fast-moving water with small waves.
    • Class II: Novice level with straightforward rapids.
    • Class III: Intermediate level with moderate, irregular waves.
    • Class IV: Advanced level with intense, powerful rapids.
    • Class V: Expert level with long, violent rapids.
    • Class VI: Extreme and nearly impossible to navigate.
  • Is river rafting suitable for beginners, or do I need prior experience?

    At NOLS, our river rafting courses are designed for all experience levels. We choose to operate on rivers that support learning without adding an unacceptable level of risk.

  • What kind of equipment is provided, and what should I bring for a river rafting adventure?

    We provide all essential gear for our river rafting trips, including personal flotation devices (PFDs), helmets, and paddles. You will need to bring personal items such as swimwear, sunscreen, additional clothes, and water shoes or sandals with straps. Please consult the course guide for the specific NOLS course you are interested in for more information on what items you will be expected to bring on your course.

  • Are river rafting trips guided, and what is the role of the guide?

    NOLS courses are instructor-lead experiences, not guided trips. We want people to feel empowered to make their own decisions in the backcountry and work to give you the skills to run your own trips in the future. Our instructors manage risk on our trips and teach you how to do things instead of doing them for you.

  • What risk management measures are in place for river rafting excursions?

    Risk management is a top priority at NOLS. Our instructors implement safety measures such as guide training, providing helmets and personal flotation devices (PFDs—sometimes called life jackets), and following established protocols for emergencies. These measures are in place to minimize risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for participants.

    • Swiftwater Rescue requirement
    • WFR requirement
    • Flow monitoring
    • NAFPs