Published: Mar 20, 2021

When Is the Best Time to Go Rafting?

We get asked constantly, and I mean a lot, “When is the best time to go rafting?” My favorite response is any time we are running trips. If the river is flowing you should be going! Of course, The answer to this question is subjective. It is a personal choice but one that people who haven’t experienced rafting don’t wholly know the answer to yet. We try to give people a guiding push to their right time to go, and the goal of this blog is to help you determine your personal best time to go.

For starters, regardless of time of year or water level of the river we train our guides and trip leaders to offer you a fun, safe, and interactive adventure. Depending on the water levels and weather we offer up a variety of adventures with in the rafting trip to give you a memorable experience. So when is the best time to go whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River, near Duluth, MN?

High Water and Healthy Medium Flows are typically in May and June. In May the St. Louis River watershed is still charged by snow melt so even a little bit of rain does a lot compared to dryer conditions in the summer, and in May the water can be a bit chilly, but no worry we supply wet suits and paddling suits.

June can be high water to higher end of medium flows, because June is the wettest month in northeastern Minnesota we get a fair amount of rain. You can have high water or excellent medium flows sporting 6’ to 8’ waves and the water is cool and refreshing but no longer frigid like early May. In high water and upper medium flows we don’t offer the adventure swim as you get pretty wet from all the big waves and the current is just too swift to be leisurely swimming. However, we do offer a side hike and swimming on the reservoir at the end.

Lower end of Medium and low water flows the guides are able to share more knowledge about the natural history of the river, splash more, side hike, surfing, adventure swim, and warm weather!! All the rapids have their magic levels and the Electric Ledge is always a hoot!

My Favorites

I personally (this is Cliff trip leader) have a few different flows that are my favorite levels for whitewater rafting but I really love it all if we are taking fun people down the river. Just like anything else: you get back what you put into it, and if you put in effort you get a good time. Same can be said for an open heart and open mind. Flows are measured by cfs, which is cubic feet per second. Anyways, here are my favorites:

During May or June I really enjoy 8,500 cfs. This is considered high water and there are 8’ plus waves at this flow. The first rapid the wave is washed out but everything else is solid class III to III+ rapids with lots of big waves and the Electric Ledge, depending on the line you take can be class IV-. The second rapid, Two Hole, that is class II in normal summer flows sports two big crashing waves, the canyon is sporty, and the Ledge and Lil Kahuna rapids are big water class III fun!

I also love 5,000 cfs with is the low end of high water flows. Everything is in and fun and we go down the middle at the the Electric Ledge into an incredibly powerful wave: you aren’t staying dry that’s for sure! The wave train, a succession of waves, at Lil Kahuna are well over 6’ tall and its one into the next!

3,000 cfs is a fun level because you can surf the wave at the first rapid for a wet and wild ride, Two Hole is no longer big but a fun splashy class II+, the canyon has fun 4’ plus waves, and the last few rapids are sporty class III. If I could have one level all summer this would be it!!

1200 to 6oo cfs. This flow is the typical late July and August flow. Most places you go in North America, late summer is low water. These flows are perfect for those that are scared of huge waves and want warm water. Yet this flow is fun as it requires technical paddling, good raft surfing to be had, we add in more adventures within the trip, Crazy Train rapid holds a nice wave train, and the Electric Ledge becomes a drop rather than a crashing wave so you get air time! Plus it’s hot and humid so what better place to be than on the St. Louis River and whitewater rafting!!

The river is always changing, just like you: ‘No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’


Category(s): Blog Posts