When the weather heats up in the Pacific Northwest, the best way to cool down isn’t necessarily with a crisp beverage (though we do have plenty of great micro-brewed and -distilled options). The preferred method is an all-ages cocktail of water, wind and elevation that adds up to white-water rafting on the Clackamas River.
Located 30 miles east of Portland, this mountain-fed waterway gushes with class III and IV rapids in the springtime, when the currents coming off Mount Hood are particularly strong, and lower-powered class III waves from May to August as the weather gets warmer. Winding through old-growth forests, creatively named rapids like Sling Shot, Hole-in-the-Wall, Toilet Bowl and Bob’s Hole get the adrenaline pumping for rafters as young as 10 years old, while allowing paddlers of all ages plenty of time between whitewater to catch their breath (or even take a dip into the river’s crystal-clear waters).
There are several rafting outfits on the Clackamas. Blue Sky Rafting has been paddling Oregon’s rivers since 1998, and offers half- and full-day intermediate-level trips along the Clackamas that come with everything you need (including a barbecue lunch for full-day trips). All Adventures Rafting, whose guides have been licensed for upwards of 30 years, offers similar packages. And All Star also plies the Clackamas on weekends in May and June, and offers midweek runs for groups of eight or more, as well.
The best time to dip your toe in the whitewater may be during the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival (May 18-19). With slalom events, inner-tubing fun, and a catboat keep-away game, this 30th-annual event is fun whether you’re dripping wet or on dry land, and an excellent way to soak in summertime in the great Northwest.