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:
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.
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.
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.