La Niña left much of the West with feeble snowpack—meaning a low runoff season. These four rivers will be safe bets for a weekend float.
Wenatchee River, Washington
Rumbling out of the Cascades into the eastern Washington desert, the Wenatchee is known for big, splashy rapids. The east side of the Cascades pulled in 120 percent of normal snowpack, so bouncy rapids like Drunkard’s Drop and Grannies Panties should be rocking well into August. Blue Sky Outfitters’ 17-mile full-day run includes ten major Class III drops and a sirloin steak cookout at trip’s end ($92).
Lochsa River, Idaho
The Lochsa tumbles over 40 major rapids as it cascades out of the Bitterroot Mountains, which received 100 percent of normal snowpack this winter. Row Adventures offers single-day, 20- or 30-mile roller-coaster rides through the Lochsa’s legendary Class IV waves and holes ($113–$145). The Lochsa should still pack a raft-flipping punch when it peaks in June, but don’t book past the first week of July, when it’ll start getting low.
Elaho River, British Columbia
Most of the snow tracked north this winter, so if you want big water, head to Squamish’s Elaho River, 90 minutes north of Vancouver. Careering through a tight granite gorge, the 11-mile, Class III–IV Elaho has a pushy, big-water feel and views of dozens of hanging glaciers. Don one of Wedge Rafting’s wetsuits and spend a day pounding through drops like Devil’s Elbow and the Cheese Ball, followed by a barbecue lunch ($165).
Arkansas River, Colorado
While the rest of the state was cranking snowmaking guns, by some fluke of geography the Arkansas’s headwaters, located near Leadville, clocked in with 79 percent of normal snowpack, which means the nation’s busiest whitewater river should be respectable this summer. Arkansas Valley Adventures runs trips on six stretches. Opt for the 10-mile run down the Class IV Royal Gorge ($71).