About White Water Rafting
The Southern Alps is renowned globally for its white water and has some of the best rivers in the world. There is the Durance with its famous Rabioux wave, the Ubaye, a technical high volume grade 4 river, the Bonne with its dramatic and committing gorge, great for ‘airboating’, the Séveraisse which runs along the bottom of the spectacular Valgaudemar valley, the Guil, the Drac and many more.
There are several different ways to experience the big and bouncy alpine white water! You can experience the roaring rapids first hand in a raft or navigate your way down in an inflatable canoe. Fun, fun and more fun, for all ages!
Rafting is the most accessible for all and is the most popular type of white water descent. There are different sized rafts for between 4 and 8 people with the larger rafts more stable and better for bigger volume water and the smaller ones used for lower levels or a more advanced descent on higher volume water. You work together as a team to steer the raft down the rapids with instructions from the guide for when to put your paddle in, how to lean and generally make the most of the rapids.
The reality is that you bounce around sometimes where you want to go and sometimes not!! It’s not unusual to go for a little swim alongside the raft – which is actually very pleasant on a hot day!
Inflatable Two Person Canoes "Hotdogs"
These are inflatable white water two person canoes so they are much more forgiving and stable than a classic canoe and require much less refined skill! A bit like a long thin raft, you use the same principal of a single canoe paddle to steer.
As you are that much closer to the water than in a raft the rapids feel bigger! This is the perfect type of boat for rivers with lower volume water for adrenalin seekers who really want to feel the rapids.
Inflatable One Person Kayaks "airboats"
These are like inflatable kayaks – nice, stable and forgiving for beginner kaykists but a real challenge for white water novices! The principle is the same as kayaking in that you steer with your hips and use a two ended kayak paddle to control and steer, but unlike kayaking which takes a serious investment of time to learn, it is accessible to all. It’s the perfect way to experience white water and get close to the rapids. As you are fully in control of the boat yourself, there is no-one else to blame if you fall in!
Choose Your Rafting Adventure - coming soon
All these rafting adventures are bookable online and are our most popular white water rafting experiences in the Southern French Alps. If you are looking for a particular river or experience not featured here or would like to book a private white water rafting trip for your group, please contact us.
What You Need to Know
For all of the rafting, inflatable canoeing and airboat descents sold through our website, buoyancy aids, helmets, wetsuits and spray tops are provided. You just need to wear a swimsuit and a pair of trainers that will get wet. You need proper trainers with a grip on the sole. Neoprene boat shoes are not appropriate as they don’t offer enough protection from the rocks if you fall in to the river.
Best Time of Year for Rafting in the Alps
The rivers of the Southern French Alps are fed by a reliable and regular melting of the snow and glaciers high up in the mountains throughout the spring and summer. Rainfall of course also impacts the levels but this is less predictable. As the days get longer and the sun stronger in the spring, the snow melts gushing into the rivers as it evacuates off the mountain in large bouncing rapids. The best months for big white water are thus May, June and July with water levels peaking in the afternoons when the melt is at its most extreme of the day.
Over the course of the summer until the end of August, after the majority of the snow has melted, the remaining glaciers then feed the rivers. Towards the end of the summer as the length of the days and strength of the sun reduces, the volume of melting ice diminishes and by autumn river levels are down to their minimum, with surges from rainfall but not the reliable daily fluctuation and volume generated by snow and glacier melt. Most white water bases are closed by mid September, with some closing mid August depending on the river, whether it has a glacier feeding into it and the levels of annual snow.
Get a Feel for Rafting Adventure!
This is a family rafting trip on the river Drac in the Champsaur valley in the Southern French Alps. The river levels were also quite low for this descent making this a perfect fun and intimate experience for a family thanks to the small 4 person raft. We can help you choose which rafting experience is best for you whether you want full on adrenalin or more relaxed family fun.