Tame whitewater ... really? One might consider the combination of two such obviously contradictory words a perfect example of an oxymoron. After all, whitewater by definition is fast moving, turbulent and unstable, thus creating the foamy white stuff after which it is named.
But let's not get lost in the details. It's entirely possible to experience whitewater without white knuckles. As proof, we offer four fun whitewater river trips for the not-so-adventurous adventurer:
1. Tubing the Saluda
Enjoy a 2.5-hour float trip down Class I rapids in the Carolina foothills. Saluda Outdoor Center in Easley offers tube rentals and will shuttle you to the launch site. This one's tame enough for children as young as 6. Cost is $25 per person.
2. Tubing Columbia's Three Rivers
This two-mile trip starts on a section of the Lower Saluda in the shadow of Columbia's downtown. You'll launch near Riverbanks Zoo and ride through Class I and II rapids as you make your way past the confluence of the Saluda with the Broad to the Congaree River. Palmetto Outdoors offers tubes and shuttle service for $15-$20 depending on your choice of tube.
3. Kayaking the Catawba River
For those who want to experience the thrill of whitewater kayaking without the risk, this is your river. The 6.5-mile paddle, billed as moderately easy, runs from the Lake Wylie Dam to Rock Hill's River Park. Most of the way it's a float trip with a few Class I and II rapids (read: riffles and small waves) thrown in to give you a "woohoo" rush. Catawba River Expeditions provides boat, gear and shuttle service for $40 for a one-person kayak and $50 for a tandem kayak or canoe.
4. Rafting Section III of the Chattooga River
Compared to Section IV of the National Wild and Scenic River, this is a fun, family-friendly river trip open to kids age 8 and older. But calling it tame is probably a stretch. Most of the rapids are Class II and III with a Class IV grand finale. The notorious Bull Sluice is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping and your heart racing as you plunge 14 feet through a double drop. Wildwater and the Nantahala Outdoor Center offer trips ranging from $90 to $105 for five to seven hours of adventure.