For most people, the prospect of river rafting triggers thoughts of family time, relaxation and a meandering exploration of the outdoors. It sounds nice, and it is. All the same, most people need not venture out on these raging rapids. These rivers are the deadliest bodies of freshwater on the planet. What about Adrenalists? Can they tackle them? Well, that’s another story altogether. If you’ve got proper training and a more-than-healthy thirst for intense risk, why wouldn’t you jump right in?
For those of you feeling game, we’ve compiled a first-class list of rapids that will either give you a coronary or place you among a select few who’ve conquered the nearly insurmountable.
The Amazon River is the most powerful river in the world and accounts for 1/5 of the world’s river flow. Its shores are set so wide apart, and its rapids are so incredibly powerful, that it houses not one single bridge or point at which one could cross without risking their lives and getting very, very wet. To give a clear idea of the Amazon’s might, it’s reported that over eight trillion gallons of water discharge at its mouth each day, which is certainly enough flow to pummel would-be swimmers down towards its 150-foot depths. Unless you’re superhuman, you should think twice about tackling this one.
Forks of the Kern River
1,447 feet (441 meters) from the top of Mount Whitney, California’s highest point, snowmelt turns to water. That water, in turn, gushes through the close-set, white-water producing canyons of the Kern River. One of the most dangerous whitewater rapids spots is a region of the river called Forks of the Kern, the point closest to the Mount Whitney drop-off. There is even a sign placed along the stretch of highway that runs parallel to the Forks that shows the number of people killed (since 1968) trying to make it past that storied infamous trap. It currently stands at a staggering “257.” As the LA Times succinctly put it: “if you survive the 10-foot waterfall there’s a suck hole 20 yards beyond. Hit that wrong, and your wife is dating again.”
Africa’s Congo River is one of the world’s most dangerous rivers. It is the continent’s most powerful and one of the world’s largest at 2,992 miles. Those not briefed on the Congo’s ferocity might think they’re in for a quiet afternoon sojourn and wonder what all the hype is about. They’ll continue to wonder all the way up until the point they reach the “Gates of Hell.” This part of the river is a 75-mile stretch of some of the most brutal rapids in the world. If you’re skilled (or lucky) enough to make it past 32 cataracts, each of which have a ruinous flow, the Congo’s parting gift is the Stanley Waterfall, and it’s resulting rapids will rock any rafter for over 60 miles.
Just when you thought your biggest problem was racing rapids and raging waterfalls, the threat changes completely. Bangladesh, India’s Ganges River is a notorious place of worship for Hindus and, as luck would have it, a breeding ground for bull sharks, one of the most ferociously anti-human breeds and a usual suspect in any shark attack. Rare in their ability to survive in fresh water, these hungry beasts are often found in the Ganges’s waters and are reportedly responsible for many injuries in the region. Though concrete figures have not been recorded, the number of gilled Ganges fear factors are myriad. That’s reason enough for us to stay clear.
Ask any authority to compile their list of rivers you should really just keep away from and Tibet’s Tsangpo River will be somewhere near the top. Known as “the Everest of Rivers” because of the extreme difficulty experienced by even the most seasoned kayakers, the Tsangpo claimed the lives of two adventurers on exploratory expeditions in the past 20 years. In 1993, a Japanese tour group lost one of its members and, 5 years later, former U.S. Slalom Team athlete, Douglas C. Gordon, was tragically killed during a mission sponsored by National Geographic. It’s largely due to these tragedies and the river’s infamously steep gradient that the Tsangpo’s earned its harrowing reputation.