The roar of the rapids! The thrill of cascading waterfalls! The aroma of peach-scented bath salts and the factory-manufactured squawk of your rubber ducky... hey, wait a second. You're not whitewater rafting - you're just taking a bubble bath. You wimp. Wasn't this the year you promised yourself you'd try an extreme sport? And while surfing the net with your iBook's electrical cord dangling precariously over the rim of the bathtub may qualify as "dangerous," it hardly passes for an extreme sport now, does it?

So get out of the bathtub and give whitewater rafting a try. Here are some reasons why you should take the plunge:

  • Whitewater rafting is an exciting way to see the great outdoors.

  • Whitewater rafting is a challenging (but fun) way of testing your strength, endurance, reflex time and ability to think on your feet.

  • Whitewater rafting is a group activity that brings friends closer together through teamwork.

  • Whitewater rafting is a whole lot cheaper than those big sissy cruise ships.

  • Whitewater rafting is a sheer adrenaline rush.

  • Whitewater rafting gives you a great excuse to toss back a few brewskis when you're done.

  • Whitewater rafting gives you bragging rights to whatever river you tamed, making you much more attractive to the whitewater groupies everywhere.


The first thing you need to know about whitewater rafting is that it takes place on rivers. But not all rivers are created equal. Some rivers are big and muddy; some are calm and winding; and only some are conducive to whitewater rafting, since the sport requires a little something called rapids. Here's what you need to know about rapids:

  • Rapids are the result of the vertical descent of a body of water over a given horizontal distance. Water travels downhill. As obvious as that sounds, you'd be amazed at how many truly clueless people - not yourself, of course - live under the misconception that water travels from north to south, regardless of geography or topography, until it meets an ocean.

  • While all rivers have some downhill gradient, steeper gradients result in more rapidly moving water. Rapids, or whitewater, arise as a result of steeply descending river channels.

  • Some of the most famous river rapids in the country include the Snake River and Colorado River (through the Grand Canyon). But there are thousands of rivers in every state that offer whitewater rafting trips.

  • Since these channels are still being carved by erosion, whitewater rafters have been known to encounter numerous boulders and layers of hard bedrock that sit in the river's path. You know what that means? Fun stuff like vortices of swirling or funneled water, natural ramps, and sudden drops in elevation. Real adrenaline pumpers.

  • Rapids are generally classified on a scale of 1-5. The idea is to find a happy medium. Class 1 rapids are just a bit more exciting than a calm river (think water park tameness), while Class 5 rapids are likely to give you heart palpitations.

While there are rivers in the U.S. that are considered Class 6, you will have a very difficult time finding an outfitter that offers expeditions on them, due to the extreme danger involved.

If you're über-adventurous, the Blue Nile River in Africa has rapids that are classified from 1 to 10. In addition to being even more dangerous than a U.S. Class 6, this mighty river has the added challenges of African crocodiles, sleeping death (due to tsetse flies), malaria, and roaming machete-wielding bandits. We recommend you steer clear of these crazy rivers, especially on your first couple of times out. Typically, a good course for beginners mixes Class 1, 2 and 3 rapids. To find almost any level of rapid classification on any river, check out the American Whitewater Association or