West Virginia White Water Rafting


Are Virginia and West Virginia good places to go white water rafting?

When white water rafting Virginia, which places do you need to visit to make the most of your trip?

What are some of the best reasons to visit this part of the country for your next rafting adventure?

In this article, we’ll show you our favorite top picks for rafting locations in Virginia and West Virginia. These are excellent places to visit because of their beautiful scenery, clear waters, and plenty of other outdoor activities to enjoy at the same time, too.

Read on to find out more!

Option #1. Shenandoah River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$$$
Location: Lurray, Virginia

Duration of trips available:

  • This exciting river adventure is available in quarter-day and half-day options.
  • For the quarter-day trip, expect to spend about three hours total on the water.
  • For the half-day trip, plan to spend about five hours total on the water.

The Shenandoah River contains many different parts, some of which can be more challenging than others for rafters. However, if you’re looking for an experience that will be great for families and beginners to the world of rafting, consider the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. This part of the river is flatter and calmer than the rest, and the rapids it includes are fairly tame. It’s still fun enough to provide a challenge for beginners and plenty of nice scenery for everyone involved, too!


  • This river provides tons of beautiful scenery and chances to stop and relax along its banks as well.
  • Many companies that offer tours of this river include add-ons, such as dinner options, to help make your experience even more comfortable and enjoyable than ever before.


  • The companies that offer tours of the Shenandoah River often don’t include guided tours, which means you’ll need to have at least one or two adults who are comfortable enough with rafting to take the lead on your journey.
  • Tours of this river may require you to share river space with kayaks and canoes that are also exploring, so during peak season, the water may be crowded.

Option #2. Potomac River

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Price: $$
Location: Purcellville, Virginia

Duration of trips available:

  • There are several trips available on the Potomac, but the best option is to spend a half-day on the river. The half-day trips available from most companies are perfect for beginners and intermediate rafters.

Give yourself a great first rafting experience or test your skills a little bit with the Potomac River’s Class I-III rapids. This river may have lower rapids at certain times of the year, but it’s always going to have a few easy thrills as well as a couple of mid-range challenges for rafters to experience and enjoy.


  • Guides on these river trips offer a brief history lesson along with information about the scenery and surrounding areas.
  • During the busier season, trips are available to be scheduled twice per day on the Potomac.


  • This offer is a popular location, and the river may become very crowded during the peak tourist season.
  • It may be difficult to find open bookings available unless you plan your trip well in advance.

Option #3. James River

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Price: $$
Location: Richmond, Virginia

Duration of trips available:

  • Pick your trip length between a quarter-day, half-day, or full-day trip depending on the skill level of everyone involved.

There are several parts of the James River available for rafting, and each of these parts offers a slightly different experience. If you’re looking for an easy float with just a few simple rapids, you can enjoy the Upper James, which is ideal for beginners and families with older or younger members. Go for the Lower James if you want to try your hand at more difficult rapids, or opt for the Falls of the James tours to find a rafting adventure that encompasses a little bit of everything. This river offers plenty of variety to help you meet your needs.


  • This river includes rapids from Class I through Class IV, so there’s truly something for everyone.
  • Some companies offer add-ons such as fireworks viewing or meal inclusions on this trip.


  • The Upper James is very mild and may be dull for some customers.
  • The full-length trip may book up fast.

Option #4. New River

Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
Price: $$$
Location: Lansing, West Virginia

Duration of trips available:

  • Consider trip options that last for a half-day or a full-day.

When you want a river with a lot of different options to choose from in West Virginia, the New River may be the place for you. This river offers several levels of difficulty so everyone in the family can enjoy their time on the water.


  • Most companies separate the Upper and Lower portions of the river, so you can choose the Upper river if you want an easy paddle and the Lower river for class IV rapids.
  • Some companies offer a rafting experience at The Dries, which is a rapids-intense location on the river.


  • The rapids may change dramatically depending on the time of year and the level of the water.
  • Some trips may need to be canceled if the water level gets too low.

Option #5. Gauley River

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Price: $$$
Location: Lansing, West Virginia

Duration of trips available:

  • On the Gauley, you can enjoy trips for a half-day, full-day, and sometimes multi-day.

The upper portion of this river offers moderate thrills that are perfect for rafters who have had some experience. The lower portion, however, is a 13-mile stretch of drops and difficult rapids that should be tackled by more experienced rafters. These are Class IV and higher rapids, so keep this in mind when booking!


  • This popular river experience is a must-see for those who love rafting.
  • The rapids are usually high enough that these trips don’t need to be canceled.


  • No one under the age of 15 is permitted to raft with most companies on the Gauley.
  • The rapids may be too intense for many guests.


When is white water rafting season in Virginia? Most of the time, locals and companies alike recommend rafting in Virginia and West Virginia from April through November. Keep in mind, however, that this can change a little bit depending on the weather that particular year.

Here are some advantages of going in-season:

  • During rafting season, the weather is most likely to be nice and pleasant for spending time outdoors.
  • There may be some specials and deals available during this season.
  • In-season rafting ensures the water level is high enough to enjoy the trip safely.

And here are some reasons to consider going during the off-season instead:

  • During the off-season, lodging is usually more affordable.
  • The rivers will be less crowded during the off-season.
  • At this time of year, transportation costs may be more affordable as well.

No matter what time of year you plan to visit, get ready to enjoy some incredible scenery and exciting rapids when you choose to raft in either Virginia or West Virginia!

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