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Could This Be The Wildest Whitewater Season Ever?

Parts of the West have gotten record snowfall this winter, which means the mountains in some places are piled high with more snow than we’ve ever recorded. Statewide, California has 237 percent of the snowpack it usually does at this time of year, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources. 

And that means something even more exciting for summer: When all that snow melts and cascades down from the mountains into the rivers, it’s going to make one heck of a whitewater rafting season. Rivers in California in particular are expected to run higher and faster, pushing rapids into more dangerous classes and extending the whitewater season well into fall, according to the L.A. Times

“We are slack-jawed at the amount of snow in California this year,” Tyler Wendt, president of whitewater rafting company OARS, said in a press release announcing the company’s whitewater forecast for this year. Rafters this season should expect water to be higher and colder than usual, and rapids are likely to be much stronger.

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Utah also has historic snowpack levels, toppling a 40-year state record set in 1983, the year a rafting guide set a record for the fastest boat ride ever documented through the Grand Canyon thanks to flooding that sent the Colorado River barreling through the park. This year, we might see similar conditions to those chronicled in a book about the adventure called The Emerald Mile, by Kevin Fedarko.

Guides may have to “reassess what ‘safe enough’ means” this season, the L.A. Times wrote. 

“In some cases, the rocks that create rapids may be so submerged that the water flowing over them is undisturbed, making them flat and dull,” the Times reported. “But more likely, said [Tom] McDonnell, [owner of Sierra Mac River Trips near Yosemite National Park], the water will be moving with such force that, even when some rocks are submerged, the surface will be affected in unpredictable ways.”

Eager to give it a try? Here are some of the wildest whitewater trips in the U.S.

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