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(Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstoc)

Just Add Water

The options can be daunting, so we've narrowed it down to five trips you shouldn't miss.

river rafting trips vacations guides river guides tours outfitters
Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstoc

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How to Pick the Right River Trip

Nothing says summer freedom like floating down rapids in a raft full of your best friends, beer, and fly rods. But where to aim? Our handy guide has the right trip for you.

Colorado River
John Day River
Middle Fork of the Salmon
French Broad River

River Trips: Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Rafting the Grand Canyon. (Justin Bailie)

WHEN: June 1–August 20

The Grand has unreal views and Class IV rapids and gets you away from it all for more than three weeks. Permits are tough, but your odds go up each time you apply and when you apply for the off-season. Go with OARS ($2,271). DIY: Rent everything from Flagstaff’s Pro River ($265 per five days).

River Trips: John Day River, Oregon

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(Charlie Borland)

WHEN: May 20-July 10

This five-day float takes you through 71 miles of northern Oregon’s rugged desert canyons on mostly Class II water. Plus, the permits are free, and you get some of the country’s best smallmouth bass fishing along the way. Ouzel Outfitters in Bend does guided trips ($850), or they’ll set you up with the required gear ($400).

River Trips: Middle Fork of the Salmon, Idaho

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Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, ID. (Justin Bailie)

WHEN: May 28–September 3

No other weeklong trip offers this level of whitewater (Class III–IV) coupled with absurdly great trout fishing. Permits are first come, first served in the off-season; in the peak season, it’s a 1-in-25 chance. OARS runs six-day trips ($2,297), or hit up Blackadar Boating (from $575 for five days) to get outfitted for your own trip.

River Trips: French Broad River, North Carolina and Tennessee

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(Jeff Rich )

WHEN: June 1-August 31

The third-oldest river in the world passes through the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains and has plenty of flat stretches to sit back and relax. There are no permits, but reserve your campsite ahead of time ($7 per person). If you’re up for the DIY approach, check out Hot Springs–based Huck Finn Rafting (from $50 per person per day).