Here are 10 of the West's best rafting rivers, along withveteran outfitters that lead trips on them. We're suggesting runsthat let you feel the power of the water without leaving youshaken. They range from rivers rated class I (a fast, easy float)to class IV (wild and woolly but relatively safe for aggressivebeginners on a guided trip). Water flow can vary widely by the yearand throughout the season, however, so be sure to check with theoutfitter.

CALIFORNIA

1. South Fork of the American River
Your base: Coloma
Why it's great: The most popular whitewater river inCalifornia, with plenty of thrills.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 1/2-2 days; class III
Season: April-October
Outfitters: A, E

2. Tuolumne River
Your base: Groveland
Why it's great: An 18-mile run through an awesome,whitewater-filled canyon on a river that's big in spring, milder insummer.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 1-3 days; class IV
Season: April-September
Outfitters: C, E

COLORADO

3. Green River/Gates of Lodore
Your base: Vernal, UT
Why it's great: Slickrock canyons and fossils in DinosaurNational Monument.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 4 days; class III
Season: May-September
Outfitters: D, E

IDAHO

4. Main Salmon River
Your base: Salmon or Boise
Why it's great: Frank Church River of No Return WildernessArea is full of wildlife, huge sand beaches, and hot springs.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 5-6 days; class III
Season: June-September
Outfitters: C, D, E

5. Snake River
Your base: Lewiston or Boise
Why it's great: Hells Canyon, North America's deepest rivergorge.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 3-5 days; class III-IV
Season: May-September
Outfitters: D, E

OREGON

6. Deschutes River
Your base: Maupin
Why it's great: Canyons and waterfalls on the sunny side ofthe Cascade Range.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 1/2-1 day; class III
Season: April-October
Outfitter: F

7. Rogue River
Your base: Grants Pass
Why it's great: Thick forests; bears, eagles, and otters;side canyons to explore.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 3-5 days; class III
Season: May-September
Outfitters: C, E, F

UTAH

8. Colorado River/Cataract Canyon
Your base: Green River or Moab
Why it's great: Technicolor canyons and thrilling rapids;first-timers should go during low-water months
Trip length/Rapids rating: 5 days; class III-IV (V in highwater)
Season: July-September (low months)
Outfitters: D, E

WASHINGTON

9. Sauk River
Your base: Darrington
Why it's great: The wild North Cascades loom over a river ofdeep-green glacial meltwater.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 1 day; class III+
Season: April-July
Outfitter: B

10. Upper Skagit River
Your base: Marblemount
Why it's great: Emerald water, sockeye salmon, rapidsbalanced with flat water.
Trip length/Rapids rating: 1 day; class I-III
Season: April-October
Outfitter: B

Outfitters to call

A. American River Recreation ( www.arrafting.com or800/333-7238)
B. DownStream River Runners ( www.riverpeople.com or360/805-9899)
C. Echo River Trips ( www.echotrips.com or800/652-3246)
D. Holiday Expeditions ( www.bikeraft.com or800/624-6323)
E. O.A.R.S. ( www.oars.com or 800/346-6277)
F. Oregon River Experiences ( www.oregonriver.com or800/827-1358).

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