Whitewater rafting in British Columbia is beyond compare. Those tiny water droplets tumbling down steep-sided mountains, turning into swirling, frothy frenzies entice adventurers of all ages.

Whitewater rafting in British Columbia is beyond compare. Those tiny water droplets tumbling down steep-sided mountains, turning into swirling, frothy frenzies entice adventurers of all ages. Whitewater enthusiasts planning a regional ‘staycation’ road trip (for when regional explorations are once again welcome) seek to hop aboard a raft and plow through some of the biggest and wildest waves in the province. Whether on the coast, the interior, or amongst the Rocky Mountains, there is no shortage of BC whitewater rafting rivers from which to choose 

Top 5 Whitewater Rivers in BC (all with Class IV waves and rapids): 

  1. Thompson River 
  2. Kicking Horse River 
  3. Elaho River 
  4.  Chilcotin River
  5. Babine River 


1 – Thompson River 

As one of the biggest volume rafting rivers in British Columbia, the Thompson (near Lytton, BC) is famous for its Class II through IV rapids. Guests can ride either a motor-rig (sort of like a big, inflatable catamaran with an outboard engine at the back) or paddle as a team through such rapids as Witch’s Cauldron, Devil’s Kitchen, Washing Machine, and Jaws of Death! This particular section of the river, thanks to Kamloops Lake, is relatively warm compared to other ‘refreshing’ glacially-fed rivers. For the best ride, on either type of raft, we recommend family-owned and operated Kumsheen Rafting ResortThe Thompson River is an easy day trip from Vancouver, Kelowna, or Kamloops. 

2 – Kicking Horse River 

For continuous BIG whitewater action (I mean, really BIG!), nothing beats rafting the Kicking Horse River with Wild Water Adventures, near Golden, BC.  Boasting the biggest whitewater in the Rockies, half-day and full-length trips satisfy ‘mild to wild’ whitewater preferences.  

Wild whitewater (Class II, III, IV, and sometimes IV+) is found on both the Whitewater Exciter and Tradition trips.  Maximum Horsepower is double run down the same big, continuous, technical and tricky whitewater section. Need we say more? Join us early in the season when the river is really pumping with high water levels, or later in the summer when waves calm down just a wee bit (but not too much!). For those seeking a mild river experience, the Gentle trip is a fabulous introduction to whitewater rafting with Class II and III waves and rapids. 

Conveniently located on TransCanada Highway #1, the drive to our RiverBase from either Vancouver or Kelowna couldn’t be easier. Drive either due east from the Lower Mainland (for approximately 8 hours) or Kelowna (about 4 ½ hours). There are plenty of accommodation and other adventure activities along the way! It is definitely worth the drive to the Rockies for this exceptional whitewater experience. Turn this into a regional staycation road trip and make your Kicking Horse rafting adventure that much more memorable. Be sure to adjust your watches to Mountain Standard Time (one hour ahead) at Roger’s Pass.

3 – Elaho River 

In Sea To Sky Country, amidst the Coastal mountains and rainforests, the Elaho River is the place to find big whitewater close to Vancouver. Squamish Rafting Company shuttles guests from their base to the river along winding logging roads (an adventure in itself!). Amidst rocky, steep-sided canyons, names of rapids clearly illustrate the personality of the river: Steamroller, PlaygroundCheeky Monkey, and Devil’s Elbow!  The charming town of Squamish is renowned for its beauty and diversity, with lots of adventure options to complement rafting.

4– Chilcotin River 

In the arid interior of British Columbia, a turquoise-hued ribbon winds its way through rugged canyon landscapes. The Chilcotin River, fed by meltwater high in the Coastal Mountains, is a multi-day whitewater adventure. Mixing waters with Chilko and Taseko Rivers, the Chilcotin rips through canyons on its way to join the mighty Fraser and, ultimately, the Pacific Ocean. Lava, Farwell and Big John canyons (named for the first outfitter to run these sections of wild water) produce ever-increasing waves and hydraulics as the river flows downstream.  Canadian River Expeditions, in partnership with Big Canyon Rafting, know their way along these waterways. Trip itineraries likely include the charming towns of Quesnel or Williams Lake. Be sure to stop in to enjoy more Cariboo Country hospitality. 

5 – Babine River 

There is nothing finer than combining days of fantastic whitewater with phenomenal wildlife and wilderness. The Babine River, near Smithers, BC, is a 5-day river adventure into the heart of grizzly and salmon territory, where whitewater gets bigger and bigger with each passing day. The best river levels are later in the season (mid to late August), just as grizzlies come out of the forest to feast on salmon working their way upstream to spawn. Grizzly Drop is both a Class IV rapid and a haven for grizzly bears fattening up for the winter. Don’t linger too long on shore! Contact Sea To Sky Expeditions for trip information. If fishing is your thing, the Babine is a world-class fishing river. Be sure to find a spot where the bears arent fishing as well! 

Staycations are all the rage this year and regional road trips fit the bill for exploring your own province. Those looking for whitewater adventures in British Columbia can explore new rivers, and possibly new territory, from the comfort of their own vehicle. This summer, experience the wild whitewater wonders of BC’s rivers, guaranteed to get hearts pumping and laughter rippling through the air.  Please explore responsibly and contact us if there are any questions or comments on our top 5 whitewater river suggestions.

Ready to book your whitewater rafting trip in BC? Choose your trip based on our top 5 whitewater rivers in BC and book online or give us a call for information on all our Kicking Horse rafting adventures.  

Author: Deborah Wade

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