South Fork Run, American River, California
This is the perfect one-day whitewater trip to both delight intermediate rafters and lure in novices. The run starts gently, with Class I and II rapids, but ramps up considerably after lunch with Class III rapids such as Troublemaker and Satan’s Cesspool. This pool-and-drop river offers rafters plenty of chances to hop in and swim. In fall, enjoy a bonus rapid after Hospital Bar. OARS runs the South Fork through September. From $129/adult, lunch included.
Grand Canyon, Colorado River, Arizona
Nothing compares to the whitewater and wildlife experience of rafting the Grand Canyon, and it only gets more beautiful and serene in September and October. These runs require advance planning (booking eighteen months to two years ahead is ideal), time off (7–10 days minimum for a true Grand Canyon run), and hiking, but they are the stuff of lifelong memories.
The Colorado River has its own 1 to 10 scale for rapids and includes several rapids in the 7 to 10 range. In the fall, water levels are somewhat lower, taking the scary edge off the run while still providing thrilling whitewater. Arizona Raft Adventures offers wonderful 10-day Lower Canyon and 7-day Upper Canyon trips annually through October. Their Classic Adventure runs provide a combination of oar and paddle boats so you can paddle when you feel like it and ride scot-free when you don’t. Devoted guides keep you safe on the water and well-fed while camping on shore. Don’t forget to look up and take in the incredible stars at night. $2,510 for 7-days; $3,311 for 10 days.