Whitewater Kayaking and Rafting
While our southeastern neighbor reigns king of whitewater, Ohio has a surprising number of rivers offering exceptional kayaking and rafting opportunities.
Engaging our rivers through these water sports offers both thrills and unrelenting beauty, and there’s literally something for everyone just a short drive from Columbus.
Best times to go:
The best times to experience whitewater are in the spring (March through early June) - or if you are outfitted well and experienced, it can even be enjoyed in the winter.
Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking Destinations (in a general four-hour radius from Columbus, in order from near to far):
WAKATOMICA CREEK/MUSKINGUM RIVER
This creek runs from Frampton Road Covered Bridge to Frampton, has class II+ rapids, and is roughly 4.3 miles long. Rentals are available for canoeing and kayaking near the Muskingum River.
Whitewater canoeing and kayaking
There are many minor rapids on the Cuyahoga River, but close to Cuyahoga Falls, there is a 0.5 mile stretch that includes several class II rapids, as well as two class V waterfalls. Guided whitewater kayaking and rafting trips are available.
Located near the Bedford Reservation, there is easy river access at several spots. There is a decent waterfall to traverse along the stretch of river and it serves as one of Ohio’s most technical and fun whitewater spots. Beware of pinning spots and strainers in unpredictable places.
Kayaking, hiking, biking, horse-back riding
There is a 5.5 mile stretch of class II-III rapids on this stretch of the Rocky River. The put-in is located on Sprague Road, and the take-out is located on Cedar Point Road near Olmsted Falls and Berea.
Whitewater kayaking and rafting
WHITE OAK CREEK
After a heavy rain, White Oak Creek can reach rapids of class II-III. The smooth slate sloping bottom allows the water to get to high speeds during large flows. The length of this creek is around 13 miles.
There is a 3.5 mile stretch of class II-III rapids on this river. The access point is a short drive from Tiffin-Fostoria.
Hiking, biking, boating, kayaking, canoeing
The Lower Youghiogheny River is located within Western PA in Ohiopyle State Park. The lower run consists of 7 miles of class III-IV rapids with good training for intermediates working on technical skills. There is a popular short run that includes a shuttle to take you back to the beginning. Permits are required in the busy summer months.
The Middle section of the river is a great beginner river, with 9 miles of 1/3 whitewater, 1/3 flat, and a final 1/3 more whitewater. The rapids are only class I-II, and boats can be rented in Ohiopyle.
The Upper section of river is the most difficult, with rapids in class IV-V. Water releases are scheduled and commercial outfitters offer trips on all sections of the river.
Camping, hiking, whitewater
ELK RIVER, WV
The Elk River from Bergoo to Webster Springs is an intermediate run at low to medium levels, but at higher levels the run takes on class IV rapids. The section lasts 11.6 miles long. Rapids are mostly of the cobble bar variety.
Whitewater, swimming holes, fishing
Right outside of New River Gorge, Lansing has lots of options for renting whitewater rafts and going on guided tours of the North American continent’s oldest river. The New River has a range of rapids among its sections, mostly ranging between class I and class III rapids. There are a few sections that feature class IV rapids, including a 15-foot waterfall.
Climbing, camping, whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking
OAK HILL, WV
Oak Hill is another heavily trafficked spot for whitewater on the New River, and many companies such as River Expeditions, ACE Adventure, and West Virginia Adventures run guided rafting tours on the New and Gauley Rivers. Rapids here typically stay between class I-III.
BEAVER CREEK, WV
This section of Big Beaver Creek is 4.5 miles long and is a class IV-V+. The put-in is right around Oak Hill and is the perfect length for a day trip. Perry Ridge Trail is a hike nearby worth a stop. The creek stays decently cold throughout the year, so be sure to plan your trip in the summer months.
Whitewater, hiking, camping
LITTLE HUFF CREEK, WV
This creek offers a 6.3-mile class II-III section of whitewater. The creek typically tends to be easier to master than those in other states and is suitable for an afternoon trip. Whitewater rafting and kayaking is available for people to purchase rentals or guided tours. Campgrounds are located nearby for a full outdoor experience.