River Rafting in Oregon

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Oregon has no shortage of rivers for rafting. Famous ones, including the Clackamas and Deschutes, and local favorites, such as the North Santiam or Owyhee, flow through the state. Born from abundant rainfall and mountain snowmelt, they cut through lush canyons and high-altitude deserts as they head to the Pacific Ocean. Beginners and experts alike can find their consummate raft trip, from mild waters to outstanding Class V rapids.

The Deschutes waters are ideal for gentle rafting and fishing.

The Deschutes waters are ideal for gentle rafting and fishing.

Step 1Decide what type of rafting trip you want to take. Excursions can be a half-day float, a one-day trip or a multiday adventure with overnight camping on the riverbank.

Step 2Choose which river to raft and identify what section of water you will put in. If you are not familiar with Oregon’s waters, base your search on experience level. Beginners will be in over their heads on the lower Rogue River, and someone with advanced skills may be looking for more challenge than the McKenzie River offers, for example.

Step 3Decide on the time of year for your whitewater trip. Though you can raft year-round on many Oregon rivers, most make runs from May to September. Many rivers swell seasonally, with sections turning from gentle rapids to untamed whitewater as rain and snowmelt fatten the flow.

Step 4Select a guide. Most rafters travel with an experienced guide or company, using their equipment and expertise. A guide is especially important for complicated runs and is required for some areas of the Rogue River.

Step 5Choose a boat that will give you the kind of experience you’re looking for, if your rental company offers a selection. Large oar boats are powered by one person in the back, ideal when you want to relax while the guide does the work. Paddle boats and oar-assisted paddle boats require full participation, offering a hands-on experience.

Step 6Dress appropriately for the season, with clothing that can get wet. Wetsuits, which can be rented from your outfitter, are helpful when the water is cold or when you will be splashed continuously.


  • Always wear safety gear in the raft, even if you are a confident swimmer.



Based in Oregon, Sarah Shelton has worked as a freelance writer since 2008. She enjoys covering travel, home and garden, and automotive topics. Her articles have appeared nationwide with Internet Broadcasting, Adventure Travel and Real Estate Experts. With a major in biology, Shelton received her Bachelor of Science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.


  • Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images

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