Cache la Poudre
North Central Colorado
Leave the fancy French pronunciation at home: Locals know this Class II-IV river, which twists and churns through a 2,000-foot gorge just north of Rocky Mountain National Park, as "The Pooder." Duck as you race through the Class IV Death by Dismemberment. Distance: 19 miles; 1 day Gradient: 60 feet per mile Season: May-August; best in June Do It Yourself: Put in below Poudre Falls; take out at the Narrows picnic area on Colorado 14. No permit required. Poudre River Kayaks (970-484-8480; www.poudreriverkayaks.com) rents kayaks for $20 per day. Guided Trips: Rocky Mountain Adventures (800-858-6808, www.shoprma.com) runs one-day raft trips for $82 per person.
Central West Virginia
Thought waterfalls were only for adrenaline-crazed hair boaters? Not so. Spend a day on the Tygart and you'll get the hang of it. The Tygart's half-dozen four- to 15-foot-high waterfalls, all Class II-IV, are runnable in a kayak (all summer) or raft (May-July). Distance: 9 miles; 1 day Gradient: 27 feet per mile Season: May-August; best in June Do It Yourself: Put in two miles west of Arden; take out at Cove Run. No permit required. The Riversport School of Paddling (814-395-5744; www.shol.com/kayak) rents kayaks for $25 per day. Guided Trips: Wilderness Voyageurs (800-272-4141; www.wilderness-voyageurs.com) leads one-day raft or inflatable-kayak trips for $65 per person.
In May, there are about as many crashing waves on the Class III-IV Dead River as there are moose staring out from the forest along its banks. In June, when the waves shrink to shoulder height, beginners take inflatable kayaks and canoes all the way to the Kennebec River. Distance: 16 miles; 1 day Gradient: 20 feet per mile Season: May-early October; highest water in May Do It Yourself: Put in 23 miles west of U.S. 201; take out in West Forks. No permit required. Three Rivers Whitewater (207-663-2104) rents inflatable kayaks for $25 per day. Guided Trips: Unicorn Expeditions (800-864-2676; www.unicornraft.com) leads one-day raft trips for $79-$104 per person.
Cache la Poudre