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The Wenatchee River Rafting Tips

The Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, WA is one of the best rivers in the Washington state to go whitewater rafting !

Whitewater Rafting on the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, WA

In this blog post I want to share my tips as a former river guide, a customer, and a parent on what make the Wenatchee River the best place to go rafting, what you need to know before going, how to pick the best rafting company, and how much it will cost you.

When To Go:

The rafting season on the Wenatchee River starts in late April, and runs till beginning/mid July.
Depending on the ( snow ) season, the Wenatchee River levels range between mellow class I to raging class V ( in the Tumwater Canyon ).

Why is it important ?

When the river level is high ( usually in April-late June ), the river turns into an exciting roller coaster  with big white waves, and fast rapids ! If you're an adrenaline junky, this is definitely the time to go rafting ! 


If you're traveling with kids under 13, or anybody who doesn't want to fall out of a boat, and go for a ( somewhat terrifying ) swim in frigid waters, then I'd recommend to wait till later in the season.

At the same time, if you're looking for excitement, don't wait till late July ( as we did in the video below ) b/c otherwise, you'll end up on a boring social "rafting float".

What To Bring:

All the river guiding companies on the Wenatchee River provide their own wetsuits, booties, life vests, and some companies even offer helmets. 


Anybody who's ever worn a wetsuit, knows that there any no wetsuits that haven't been...peed in 🤣
Plus, the companies' wetsuits are so old, and worn out, that it's just disgusting to put them on.

That's why, personally I recommend to bring your own wetsuit ( like this shorty ), and maybe wear wool sock for extra warmth, and protection.

Don't forget waterproof sunscreen !

Regardless of the month you're visiting Leavenworth, it's going to be super hot ! And you'll be spending about 3-4 hours in a boat ! So, make sure you apply enough sunscreen to last you that long !

Bring waterproof camera, a poach for your phone, or a good ol' GoPro !

TIP: If you really want to capture the action, make sure to wear a helmet with GoPro attachment !
You won't be able to shoot a video with your hands b/c they'll always be busy with a paddle !

Bring your own water bottle ! It gets hot ! And you get tired paddling for 3-4 hours ! Bring a water bottle with a carabiner to easily click it into one of many straps on the boat.

Most guiding companies provide some kind of lunch/snacks before, after or during the trip ( depending on the time of your trip ). But just in case, you might bring a snack/power bar ( the guides usually have waterproof bags that you can store your belongings ).

Bring sunglasses and a hat ! 
TIP: bring the cheapest sunglasses/hat that you won't regret loosing if... you go for a swim  😎

Will You Fall Out ?

I'd say it's... 50/50 😉 And I'm not going to sugarcoat it for you - it's not pleasant !
The rapids are fast, big, and freakishly cold ! And underwater boulders, and debris don't make it safer... 

Even after guiding on the Wenatchee River for 3 seasons, I never got used to that part of ( mandatory ) guide training where you'd have to flip your boat, jump in, swim through a rapid, then climb back on top of the raft, and flip it back on 😱

And even though all guiding companies provide ( brief ) training for each group of rafters before the trips ( how to swim through a rapid, back to the raft, how to climb back in ), it's one thing to hear, and another - to experience it !

Whether you'll fall out or not will greatly depend on your guide, your crew, and YOU ! 
Hence - your 50/50 chance to fall out 😜

What To Wear ?

Hyperthermia is very real, very common, and very dangerous when it comes to whitewater rafting !
One of the ways to avoid it is to wear synthetic materials ( NO COTTON ! )

TIP: as a mentioned above, you'll be provided with a "shorty/farmer style wetsuit" that doesn't have sleeves/pants...If you're really concerned about getting cold/falling out, go with 3m full wetsuit... On the down side, while paddling, you might get a bit too hot ( but it's easier, and more pleasant to just jump into the water to cool down than to be freezing )

How Old Does Your Child Have To Be ?

Most companies require your kid to be minimum 10 y.o to go whitewater rafting...
But... as I mentioned above, if the river level is high, I'd personally wait to take my kid till he/she's 12-13

Get The Best Action Picture Of Your Trip !

As I mentioned above, chances are, you won't be able to catch an action picture of you/your crew going through the rapids 😥

BUT !!

There is a professional photographer/company that takes pictures of boaters at the most exciting spot ! Your guide will tell you about the spot beforehand so you can strike a pose/face !

After your tip you'll be able to buy that picture online or directly from the photographer to remember your action packed trip !

How To Pick The Best Rafting Guide Company:

There are dozens of rafting guide companies that offer trips on the Wenatchee River !

Make sure to check Groupon first to see if there are any deals...
Also, there are different types of trips to choose from ( rafting + wine testing; rafting + beer testing; rafting+kayaking; overnight trips... ).

Most Important Tip - call ahead to ask about the river level to make sure what to expect !

But in general, other than price and the quality of service, there is not much to compare...

TIP: personally, I'd recommend to stay away from River Recreation... but if you decide to go with them, ONLY buy through Groupon  

We got overcharged, and the worst part, at the end of the trip, we came back to the company's location to be met by local cops who were giving away ($100) packing tickets.

According to the company's Google reviews, we were not the only ones... The guides don't bother to mention the parking situation before the trip, and the owners don't even bother to fix the problem 💩

In conclusion :

Whitewater rafting on the Wenatchee River is definitely an adventure to add to your Bucket List !


The area itself ( from Leavenworth to Lake Chelan ) is a paradise for adventure seekers !
There are so many things to do and to see !

Click on this link to learn more about outdoor adventures, and things to do there...

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