Discover the 8 Best Rivers for Whitewater Rafting in Alabama

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: October 31, 2023
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Are you looking for the best rivers for whitewater rafting in Alabama? Check out these top picks! Whether you’re looking for calm water for a family-friendly outing or you want to try your hand at the Suicide Rapids, you’re bound to have the time of your life. 

Discover the 8 best Alabama rivers for whitewater rafting.

1. Buttahatchee River

Buttahatchee River at the Chickasaw Mounds

This river is a popular swimming destination as well!

©Elizabeth M Robertson/Shutterstock.com

The Buttahatchee River is an excellent class I and II rafting spot for inflatable kayaks and large rafts. There are several enjoyable rapids, excellent fishing, and stunning cliffs. You get to paddle under two bridges spanning the Buttahatchee east of Hamilton along Interstate 278. 

At high water, a few rapids can push class II. Its cliffs and setting are eerily reminiscent of Bear Creek (West). Beautiful homes may be seen on both sides of the river, giving paddlers a unique view. 

Although we’re talking about rafting here, the Buttahatchee River is a great place to cast a reel and catch a fish! This is thanks to its incredible water quality!

2. The Upper Tallapoosa River

Alabama - US State, River, Rural Scene, Bridge - Built Structure, Gulf Coast States

The Tallapoosa River runs for over 250 miles!

©iStock.com/Shackleford-Photography

The Lloyd Owen Canoe Trail is located along the Tallapoosa in Cleburne County. There are numerous minor shoals and largely flat water here. This is a fantastic site for beginning paddlers because there are many class rapids there.

Many paddlers had mistaken the put-in for the incorrect river since it mimics a lake. Located below the Falls, the takeout is an accessible boat ramp. The majority of the gradient is now hidden by a lake, where it formerly resembled the Great Falls of the Potomac. 

The Class V and higher rapids at Thurlow Dam’s base have been run but should only be done by those with plenty of paddling experience. One of the main reasons the upper portion of the Tallapoosa River made this list is that you can paddle it all year round! 

3. Coosa River

Alabama - US State, River, Flowing, Gulf Coast States, Horizontal

The Coosa River runs in both Alabama and Georgia.

©iStock.com/Shackleford-Photography

For anyone looking for a respite from the heat of Alabama, the Coosa has plenty to provide. One of the Southeast’s most popular whitewater routes is the Coosa River. Most of the course is flat, and paddlers should be aware that they are in the deep south. 

Don’t worry – the Spanish moss growing all around and the alligators in the water serve as a reminder. The Devil’s Staircase is still visible as the huge boulders at the foot of Jordan Dam. It is said that people heard the roar of water pouring over these rocks from great distances. 

According to legend, the Moccasin Gap is Alabama’s southernmost Class III rapid. Despite being a simple Class III drop, it offers some fun areas. Outside of Moccasin Gap, the rapids are mostly class II. 

It’s important to note that the nearby rocks are quite jagged and can damage boats or boaters. Additional put-ins are available under the dam, although they necessitate crossing private property. 

4. Little Cahaba River – Upper Section

Whitewater Rafting

Many outfitters have age and weight requirements.

©joshschutz/iStock via Getty Images

The Little Cahaba River is most well-known for its incredibly well-liked and beautiful boat paths. Paddlers and adrenaline junkies frequently sail downstream from Bulldog Bend to the junction of the main channel of the Cahaba River.

The Little Cahaba River includes waves and runs, deep pools, and numerous great cascades to test paddling abilities depending on your degree of experience, making it ideal for novice and advanced rafters.

If you’re looking for a more relaxing activity, consider tubing down the river. In Alabama, spend a peaceful summer day floating along the Little Cahaba River’s quiet shoals. The little river is surrounded by shady trees, and picnicking is excellent on the lush knolls at the beach. 

Two- to three-foot drops provide a hint of challenge and thrill, while calm pools beckon you to go for a refreshing swim.

5. The East Fork of the Little River

In the early 1900's Mentone, Alabama was becoming a popular resort destination. In 1924 Lahusage Dam was built to create Lake Lahusage on the East Fork of the Little River on Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain gives incredible views of The East Fork of the Little River.

©James Deitsch/Shutterstock.com

The East Fork of the Little River is a unique spot for whitewater rafting in Alabama. This area can be an exciting getaway for those brave enough for overnight runs. The river is large enough for a tandem boat. The East Fork of the Little River has enough rapids to keep things exciting and is long enough with calm periods to accommodate two blades per raft. 

Along the river, there are also some rustic camping areas. Verify that the National Preserve is open by calling ahead to confirm. If you’re looking for a place to raft during the day, you can do that as well here. 

The river has two gentle Class III rapids, and some large pools, and is an overall pleasant Class II place to spend the afternoon. The final couple of miles beyond the confluence are rather level. Next, the following six miles of river, which lead to the take-out on Highway 35, are Class I, with respectable waves and clean water. 

The entire section’s second half travels along nicely and contains a few waves, but the initial half is virtually entirely flat.

6. Little River – Suicide Run

Waterfall Kayak Jump Sangay National Park Ecuador

Extremely seasoned paddlers struggle on the Suicide Run.

©Ammit Jack/Shutterstock.com

Alright, you’re looking for a thrill in your life. Consider grabbing a kayak and braving the Suicide portion of The Little River. As you can guess by the name, this is no place for novice paddlers. In Alabama, this is the most well-known challenging run. There are numerous class III and IV rapids. The first pull-off on Route 176 or the area directly above the waterfall is where paddlers put in. 

A wide river and an incredibly simple eight-foot drop may be run practically anywhere after a few tricky rapids. Keep an eye out for the undercut on the left, which frequently conceals wood and becomes more deadly as the water drops. 

The major three, Avalanche, Cable, and Pinball, are ultimately reached if you make it this far! The majority of an avalanche is a run left across the eddy before returning to the primary section of the river.

7. Sipsey River – West Fork

Sipsey River flowing through the sipsey wilderness

Watch out for the large boulders in this river.

©Jennnay/Shutterstock.com

Only the Sipsey River has been categorized as “Wild and Scenic” in Alabama. The Bankhead National Forest in northern Alabama serves as the sole terrain for this course. During the winter through the beginning of spring, the river is usually navigable. 

The Sipsey only occasionally experiences runnable levels throughout the summer and autumn. Sipsey Recreation Area, located on County Road 60, is where the put-in is. One of the most practical river launching places in the state, the recreation facility offers a sizable asphalt parking lot, seating, bathrooms, and a sloping dock.  

The river is surrounded by high slopes and precipitous canyon walls downstream of its starting place. The rivers’ water ranges in hue from clear to deep blue. Shoal zones frequently develop and provide a thrill for novice paddlers.

The river narrows to the right at a point where there is just one true rapid. Although there isn’t much of a drop across the rapid, large waves that form at the bottom make for a bumpy ride. Standing waves will get bigger at higher water levels. 

Be careful – a boulder that has numerous canoes twisted around it is in the middle of the rapid. The river travels nearly nine miles in an uninterrupted forest. The remnants of a low-level bridge construction mark the takeout place. 

8. The Ocoee River 

The Ocoee river in Tennessee with its whitewater flowing downstream closeup with the mist in the mountains in the background on a bright sunny day in early autumn

This river runs through several states.

©Sandra Burm/Shutterstock.com

The Ocoee River will beckon you if you’re looking for an upcoming whitewater excursion close to Alabama. For both seasoned paddlers and novice rafters, this river delivers a few of the best whitewater thrills in the Southeast. 

The Ocoee is only a short drive away from Birmingham. With more than five miles of thrilling class III and IV rapids, the Middle Ocoee River has been awarded the most well-liked whitewater river in the country. 20 of the river’s rapids in this segment have distinctive names, making it fun for travelers. 

Paddling on the Ocoee is tough to beat because of the constant rapids and the opportunity to complete an Olympic whitewater course. 

Summary of the Best Rivers For Whitewater Rafting in Alabama

RiverClass
1Buttahatchee RiverOne 
2Tallapoosa River (Upper)One 
3Coosa RiverTwo
4Little Cahaba River, UpperTwo
5Little River, West Fork, East ForkThree
6Little River, SuicideFive
7Sipsey River, West ForkOne
8The Ocoee RiverThree 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © CSNafzger/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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