There’s closer whitewater to Boston than you might think. If you want to go rafting, or learn to paddle rapids in a whitewater kayak or canoe, the ever-dynamic Deerfield River is only a 2.5-hour drive west from downtown. Stalwart outfitters offer guided raft, inflatable kayak and SUP trips, along with rentals and kayak lessons from some of the country’s best whitewater instructors. The beauty of the area is its variety, from a 17-mile section serving up tranquil, scenic flats to easy Class I-II whitewater and a harder and splashier Class III-IV section offering some of the East’s best whitewater. Go on your own or guided, and for the day or a long three-day weekend (running multiple sections), staying at any number of local hotels, lodges or campgrounds.
Of the Deerfield’s two main sections, the 3-mile Monroe Bridge Section (aka the Dryway) is the more technical option. It offers exciting Class III-IV boating for intermediates and experts and can draw sizable crowds on water-release days. Starting out easier and then getting progressively harder as you paddle downstream, you’ll negotiate such rapids as Class III Factory and Boof Rock and the Class II+ Upper Play Zone before careening through Class IV Split Hair (otherwise known as Initiation), Class III Pinball and Class IV Rodeo. The crux of the run is Class IV Dragon's Tooth Rapid, but still save up for Class IV Dunbar Brook and Labyrinth. The water in this section is usually bypassed by a diversion canal that runs down to the reservoir behind Fife Brook Dam (hence the nickname 'Dryway').
But from that dam to No. 4 Dam, there’s a more mellow 17 miles that offer paddlers and rafters an easier trip. This Class I-II Fife Brook section is the river’s longest undammed stretch, ideal for beginners and aspiring intermediates, with a 700-cfs water release on most Wednesday to Sunday mornings from April to October (see details below). The first 5 miles down to Zoar Gap feature many splashy rapids, making it great for rafting (prepare to get wet in Class II Freight Train and Pinball). Not up for paddling it yourself? Try a raft trip from one of many outfitters in the Charlemont area.