The 2024 rafting season has commenced, and Oars released its annual Western Rafting Outlook. Current snowpack totals are a welcome balance for rafting outfitters following the historic high-water season of 2023. 

“Generally, snowpacks across the areas where we operate are averaging out,” says Seth Davis, Oars Director of Operations. “Not too high, not too low, but just right—’Goldilocks conditions’ for 2024.”’

Snotel data shows 2023-2024 winter snowpack totals (snow water equivalent) across many basins are at, or slightly above, the norm, with the exception of the Northwest and northern Rockies. The weather pattern in the upcoming weeks will ultimately dictate when, and for how long, outfitters will see peak flows, but in general, rafters can expect great conditions well into summer.

“For those in search of thrilling high-water trips, there’s good news,” says Davis. “While this year might not be marked by consistently high water, there will be periods when certain trips encounter higher flows. It’s all about timing and choosing the right dates to book those trips.”

Many of the West’s popular whitewater rivers, like Oregon’s Rogue River and Idaho’s Snake River will have optimal rafting conditions this season thanks to robust snowpack numbers.

Those looking to experience the excitement of a high-water trip should set their sights on an early season trip during peak snowmelt on free-flowing rivers like the Yampa on the Colorado-Utah border and Utah’s Colorado River through Cataract Canyon.

Above average snowpack and healthy reservoir levels across the board means outfitters will have a consistent and long season on California’s dam-controlled rivers like the South Fork and Middle Fork American River, as well as the Tuolumne near Yosemite. The free-flowing North Fork American is expected to have raftable flows into early June, while the Merced is a good option into late June or early July, depending on how quickly the snow melts.

A near normal snowpack in the Salmon River Basin means business as usual for the popular Lower, Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River with elevated flows on early season trips, then tapering for the rest of the season, providing reliable flows into September.

For the second year in a row, the Owyhee River on the Idaho-Oregon border is enjoying a snowpack that’s over 200% of normal, which means outfitters are well-poised to run this beloved spring trip that relies on “just right” water levels and weather patterns each season. Catch it if you can.

And no surprises in Grand Canyon. Lars Haarr, Oars Grand Canyon Operations Manager says, “The great thing about boating in Grand Canyon is that no matter what the water level, there are going to be fun rapids—some are better at higher flows, and others better at lower or more moderate flows. Of course, there’s always the fan-favorites of Hance, Hermit, Crystal, and Lava Falls, which offer excitement no matter the water level.”

Catch the full 2024 report here