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Six people in a blue raft traveling down the white water rapids
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White Water Rafting Near Santa Fe

Whitewater rafting near Santa Fe is a truly unique way to experience the exhilarating beauty of iconic Santa Fe. Whether you’re a beginner just looking to get your feet wet, or a white water rafting enthusiast ready to experience this exciting sport in a unique landscape, this will be the perfect activity to enjoy during your visit. There are several local outfitters who offer everything you need for a fun day out on the water, including transportation, meals, equipment, and of course, an experienced guide. Not sure where to start? Check out the following guide we’ve created to help make your adventure one you’ll always remember.

Choosing the Right Rafting Class

Rafting options may range from challenging to easy, but it’s definitely not a passive activity. The experienced guide will give everyone on board the raft an oar and frequent orders to help successfully steer through the rapids. The most physically fit and/or experienced rafters will sit up front on the edge of the raft, while the guide will steer from the back. Some trips are geared towards thrill-seekers, while others are designed for those who prefer a more relaxing experience. Rafting trips range from Class I to Class VI, so be sure to choose the class that fits your skill and thrill level best.

Note: You’ll find that many outfitters offer rafting trips that combine several classes of rapids, but only for a short time. For example, many routes will prominently feature Class I & II rapids, with a short stint of Class III. 

Class I – Easy

Moving water over shallow riverbed with a few ripples and small waves. Few or no obstructions.

Class II – Easy

Smaller waves and easy rapids that make fun splashes. Clear channels with possible maneuvering but nothing strenuous.

Class III – Moderate

High, irregular waves with thrill factor, and narrow passages that often require some technical skill.

Class IV – Difficult

Long, difficult rapids with narrow passages that often require complex maneuvering in turbulent water. Scouting is often necessary.

Class V – Extremely Difficult

Long and very violent rapids with highly congested routes, which should be scouted from shore. Rescue conditions are difficult, and there is a significant hazard to life in the event of a mishap. The upper limit of what is possible in a commercial raft.

Class VI – Extremely Dangerous

The difficulties of Class V carried to the extreme. Nearly impossible and very dangerous. For teams of experts only. Involves risk of life. Class VI rapids are not commercially available.

Rafting for the Views

If you are looking for a relaxing adventure, then Rio Chama (Chama River) is your best bet as it lends to more of a “float” experience with only a few Class II rapids. If you’re less interested in adrenaline rushes and more interested in spotting bald eagles, gazing up at 150-foot red-rock cliffs, and picnicking in a grove of Ponderosa pines, then this is the perfect trip for you. The Rio Chama is regulated, which means the water is released from El Vado Dam on weekends, which leads to the regulation of boats and more wildlife. What’s more, the river runs through Georgia O’Keefe country, featuring the stunning vistas that inspired this famed artist.

Rafting for the Thrill-Seekers

Are you more of a “go big or go home” kind of river rafter? A full-day 17-mile trip down the Rio Grande Gorge through the “Box,” which starts northwest of Taos, is considered one of the best one-day wilderness trips in the US. This trip covers a whopping 60 rapids, including 15 Class IV. If that sounds a little out of your league, you always have the option to do a half-day which is slightly less challenging.

No matter which Class you choose, most outfitters offer half-day or full-day trips. Check out Santa Fe’s White Water Rafting outfitters and start planning your favorite rapid experience.

Santa Fe Accommodations

Here at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear, we provide everything you need for your white water river rafting getaway in Santa Fe. After a day of fun in the sun paddling the rapids, you’ll appreciate returning to the serenity of our Santa Fe oasis, including tall pines, flowering shrubs, winding walkways, and cozy patios. Inside, you’ll discover the spirit of Santa Fe in so many ways, namely the historic, rambling, adobe building. As you stroll through the clay-tiled inn, you’ll appreciate the Santa Fe-inspired furnishings, art, and decor, especially the Kiva fireplaces. Located minutes from Downtown Santa Fe, save some time to explore our local attractions and restaurants.

Experience the ultimate summer vacation with a stay at The Bear, and unforgettable white water rafting near Santa Fe. Check availability.

Updated May 2023

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