Published: Apr 26, 2024

10 of the Most Asked Questions About Rafting the St. Louis River with Swiftwater Adventures

Part 1

Once we get past the people asking is there whitewater rafting in Minnesota? Or the surprise of learning there is rafting near Duluth, MN?! Oh yeah, you betcha there is!

The St. Louis River flows approximately 180 miles from its head waters, Seven Beaver Lakes, in the Superior National Forest into Lake Superior. The stretches from Cloquet to Carlton and Carlton through Jay Cooke St. Park sport class II and III rapids, even sections of class IV and V below where the rafting trips end. Don’t worry, we only raft class II and III. The class IV and V are too narrow and technical for rafting, they are paddled by skilled whitewater kayakers though.

Once people finally realize, yes, there is whitewater rafting near Duluth, MN, then the questions start flying. So the following are the top questions we get asked, and here are our answers.

How many people are there per raft? And how big are your rafts?
Swiftwater uses a variety of raft sizes, from small 10’ rafts to large 14’ rafts. Most commonly we use 12’ and 13’ rafts. Raft sizes used depend on number of people and river levels. We run 4, 5 or 6 people per raft, plus guide.

When is your rafting season?
Swiftwater Adventures rafts the St. Louis River, May through September. May and June are typically the higher flows. July can be medium flows and August is typically low water. The river holds water well so even at low flows many of the rapids are still fun.

Is Rafting Dangerous?
It’s hard to believe there are whitewater rafting rivers near Duluth, MN that can be risky but there are. There are class IV and V rivers that run into Lake Superior, but we don’t raft those.They are kayaked though!

As far as rafting on the St. Louis River, hardly anyone dies that the media finds out about. The vultures do a good job of getting rid of the bodies. Kidding of course. With adventure sports there is always some risk. At Swiftwater we do our best to mitigate risk with highly trained and professional guides. Plus we run class II and III rapids that are much more forgiving than class IV and V.

What should I wear while rafting, and what should I bring with me?
For colder conditions, you want to dress in layers. For your base layer polyester or fleece, long underwear is best. No cotton as it loses its insulating properties once wet. For your insulating layer, wool or fleece is ideal as it can get wet and still in sulate. For your external layer, you want something like Gortex to shed water and stop the wind. Early and late in the season and on days with cold conditions, we supply wetsuits at no extra cost.

For footwear: in colder conditions wear wool socks and tight fitting shoes such as tennis shoes. If you have neoprene booties then water those. In warmer conditions wear tight fitting shoes such as tennis shoes or sandals that have a strap across the back so they stay one. Flip flops are a poor choice as they can easily fall off and be lost.

Who can go and what ages?
We have the highest safety standards and training. Despite all this, activities such as whitewater kayaking can be dangerous and we can’t with absolute certainty guarantee everyone’s safety. Because of this we have to minimize risk and have the right to refuse service to clients based on physical fitness or mental challenges that restricts one’s ability to quickly and effectively follow directions on the river, lake, trail or other wilderness scenarios.

• You must be physically fit enough to paddle or hike for up to several hours. If you have health issues, such heart problems, consult your physician before booking your trip.
• Our trips are NOT amusement park rides, they require your attention and your efforts. If you don’t like to paddle, hike, or ski then our trips are not for you.
• If you have allergies, are diabetic, or take special medications you must disclose this information on the medical form/waiver and bring your necessary medications. For example, if you are allergic to bee stings and have an Epipen it is up to you to not only disclose this information but to bring the Epipen. We will gladly provide a container for any necessary medications/equipment.
• All children need to be ages 8 and up. 8 and 9 year olds must be accompanied by their parents or a guardian.
• If you are pregnant, congratulations on your bundle of joy to be, but you can’t go on our adventures until after junior is born. However, you may participate on our flat water canoe trips on the Thomson Reservoir.
• You absolutely can not, I repeat, you CAN NOT BE DRUNK, when you show up for our trips. There will be plenty of time to celebrate at the take out or the local watering hole. If you show up drunk you are out of a trip.

If you show up with an open heart and an open mind and with the willingness to put forth effort you will have a good time.

Alright, that’s enough questions for now, we got to go rafting. Check out Part II for more commonly asked questions.


Part 2
Last blog we answered 5 of the 10 most commonly asked questions about rafting the St. Louis River with Swiftwater Adventures. Now that we established there is rafting near Duluth, MN, when the season is, what to wear and who can go. Now let’s move on to the next 5.

How long are the rafting trips and what are they like?
Upper St. Louis River Trips. Approx. Total Trip Time 2-2 1/2 hours

This trip takes you through a semi-wilderness area with rugged outcrops, tall pines, abundant wildlife, and challenging rapids. (TIP: Are Looking for the Highest Water Action? For your adventurous spirits, Book your trip May-June)

Typical summer flows change, but still supply challenging rapids as you ease into the river experience with class II+ rapids building into class III/III+ rapids in the second portion of the trip.

Lower St. Louis River Trips. Approx. Total Trip Time 2 and 1/2 hours
When the Upper St. Louis River gets too low for rafting, we run the Lower St. Louis River through Jay Cooke St. Park. Since much of this section flows through narrow canyons it can only be rafted safely at summer flows. Whether it’s late in the summer or a dry summer, it’s lower Louis time!

The Lower St. Louis sports technical class III rapids and features several rapids that are three to four-foot drops. The steep-walled sections of river provide excellent scenery. Since this trip covers fewer river miles, we include additional adventures within your trip!

What if I can’t swim?
Then you sink? For real, you don’t need to swim as we outfit you in pfds, typically high floatation life jackets. You just need to float. The jacket floats you and we recommend floating on your back so you can breathe.

Can we request a raft guide?
You sure can request a guide. No guarantee that they will be working that day but you can ask. Cruise our social media to meet our staff. May and June we do guide feature posts on Facebook and Instagram to meet our staff.

What is your cancellation policy? What if it rains?
We always get concerned when someone leads with what’s your cancellation policy? Don’t sign up unless you really want to go. If you do need to cancel then it needs to be 72 hours prior to get a full refund. We turn away others for your spots so if you cancel we need time to fill those spots.

We go rain or shine. We don’t mess with lightning so we let thunder storms pass then raft. Rafting is the perfect rainy day activity as you get wet anyway!

How are the rapids rated?
This video explains it:

Alrighty then! Thats 10 common questions we get asked. You can also check out our FAQs page from our home page, or call or email us. Otherwise quit wasting time and easily book your trip online now!

Category(s): Blog Posts