Tracing 215 miles of lush Douglas fir forest and wildflower-stippled meadows before reaching the Pacific, southwestern Oregon’s Rogue River is one of the most scenic watercourses in the nation. Rapids range from Class II to Class V (though most outfitters run only up to Class IV), and trips can span three to six days. On a three-day “signature summer trip” from O.A.R.S., similar to the one the author took, rafters will fish for trout, hike, swim, and, naturally, blast through plenty of whitewater. Groups can choose to camp or spend their nights in wilderness lodges sprinkled along the Wild and Scenic portion of the river ($735; oars.com).
With at least one Class III or IV rapid every mile for some hundred miles, the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River is a grail for experienced wilderness paddlers. It drops more than 7,000 feet from its headwaters as it slices through elk and bighorn sheep country, taking in spruce and larch woodlands, foothill grasslands, and a cascading rocky gorge along the way. On a six-day “Wine on the River” trip from O.A.R.S., rafters are pummeled by day, but pampered by night with premium wine tastings and gourmet meals. Imagine a flatiron steak drenched in chimichurri sauce on a bed of quinoa, paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon—all served a stone’s throw from some of the most epic whitewater in the world ($2,482; oars.com).