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Rafting in Nepal

     There are numerous fine rivers in Nepal which offer excellent rafting or canoeing. You can glide on calm jade water with a magnificence of scenery all bout or rush through roaring white rapids, in the care of expel river men employed by government authorized agencies. One can opt for a day of river running or more.

Karnali River

     The Karnali is a gem, combining a lowland trek with some of the prettiest canyons and jungle scenery available in Nepal. Most experienced river people who have boated the Karnali find it one of the best all-round river trips they've ever done. In high water, the Karnali is a serious commitment, combining huge, though fairly straightforward, rapids with a seriously remote location. At low water the Karnali is still a fantastic trip. The rapids become smaller, but the steeper gradient and constricted channel of the Karnali keep it interesting.

     Being the longest and largest river in all of Nepal, the Karnali drains a huge and well-developed catchments. Spring snow-melts can drive the river up dramatically in a matter of hours - as the river rises the difficulty increases exponentially. The river flows through some steep and constricted canyons where the rapids are close together, giving little opportunity to correct for potential mistakes. Pick your company carefully.

     The trip starts with a long but interesting bus ride over to the remote far west of Nepal. If you're allergic to bus rides, it's possible to fly to Nepalganj and cut the bus transport down to about five hours on the way over, and two hours on the way back. From the frontier town of Surkhet there is a lovely two day trek through lowland Sal forests to the village of Sauli. From Sauli it's 180km to the next road access at Chisopani, on the northern border of the Royal Bardia National Park.

 The river section takes about seven days, giving plenty of time to explore some of the side canyons and waterfalls which come into the river valley. Better-run trips also include a lay over day, where the expedition stays at the same camp site for two nights. The combination of long bus rides and trekking puts some people off, but anyone who has ever done the trip invariably raves about it. Finish with a visit to the Royal Bardia National Park at the end for an unbeatable combination.                                                                                  


Sun Kosi River  

     This is the longest river trip offered in Nepal, traversing 270km through the beautiful Mahabharat Range on it's meandering way from the put in at Dolalghat to the take out at Chatara, far down on the Genetic Plain. Its quite an experience to begin a river trip just three hours out of Kathmandu, barely 60km from the Tibetan border, and end the trip looking down the hot, dusty gun barrel of the north Indian plain just nine or 10 days later. Because it's one of the easiest trips to organize logistically, it's also one of the least expensive for the days you spend on a river.

     The Sun Kosi starts off fairly relaxed, with class 2 and small class 3 rapids to warm up on during the first couple of days. Savvy guides will take this opportunity to get the teams working together with precision, as on the third day the rapids become more powerful and frequent, and those on high water trips find themselves astonished at just how big a wave in a river can get. While the lower sections of large volume rivers are usually rather flat, the Sun Kosi reserves some of its biggest and best rapids for the last days. At the right flow it's an incredible combination of white water, scenery, villages, and truly quiet and introspective evenings along what many people consider to be one of the world's 10 classic river journeys.                                                         


Trisuli River

     Just out of Kathmandu, the Trisuli is where the bulk of the commercial trips operate due to the easy access. Without a doubt this is the cheapest trip available in Nepal - if you sign onto a $20 a day raft trip, this is where you'll end up, and it's no wonder.

     What makes the Trisuli so cheap is also what makes it one of the least desirable rafting trips in the country. The easy access is provided by the Prithvi Hwy, which is the only highway connecting Kathmandu and India, and it runs right alongside the river. During most flows the rapids are straightforward and spread well apart. The large number of companies operating on the river drives the prices down, but it also detracts considerably from the experience of the trip. Beaches are often heavily used and abused, with garbage, toilet paper and fire pits well assimilated into the sand. This, combined with the noise and pollution of the highway, makes the Trisuli a less than ideal rafting experience.

     It's not all bad news though. During the monsoon months the Trisuli changes character completely as huge run-offs make the river swell and shear like an immense ribbon of churning ocean. There are fewer companies running at this time of the year, and the garbage and excrement of the past season is well on it's way to Bangladesh as topsoil.

The best white water is found on the section between Baireni and Mugling, and trips on the Trisuli can be combined with trips to Pokhara or Chitwan.


Kali Gandaki River

    The Kali Gandaki is an excellent alternative to the Trisuli, as there is no road alongside, and the scenery, villages, and temples all combine to make it a great trip.

     The rapids on the Kali Gandaki are much more technical and continuous than on the Trisuli (class 3 to 4 depending on the flows), and in high water it's no place to be unless you are an accomplished kayaker experienced in avoiding big holes. At medium and lower flows, it's a fun and challenging river with rapids keeping you busy for three full days.

     Being one of the holiest rivers in Nepal, every river junction on the Kali Gandaki is dotted with cremation sites and aboveground burial mounds. If you've been wondering whats under that pile of rocks, we recommend against exploring. Due to the recent construction of a dam at the confluence with the Andhi Khola, what was once a four to five day trip has now become a three day trip, starting at Baglung and taking out at the dam site. At very high flows it will probably be possible to run the full five day trip to Ramdhighat by just portaging the dam site. This option would add some great white water and you could visit the wonderful derelict palace at Ranighat, which is slowly being taken over by the surrounding jungle. It's a fantastic place to stop and have a look around.

     If you are able to raft to Ramdhighat on the Siddhartha Hwy between Pokhara and Sunauli, you could continue on to the confluence with the Trisuli at Devghat. This adds another 130km and three or four more days. The lower section below Ramdhighat doesn't have much white water, but it is seldom rafted and offers a very isolated area with lots of wildlife.                        Top

Seti River

     The Seti is an excellent two-day trip in an isolated area, with beautiful jungle and plenty of easy rapids. Beware of companies who market this as a hot white-water trip. While it's a beautiful river valley well worth rafting, it's not a white-water bonanza.

     The logical starting point is Damauli on the Kathmandu-Pokhara (Prithvi) Hwy between Mugling and Pokhara. This would give you 32km of rafting to the confluence with the Trisuli River. This is an excellent trip for learner/intermediate kayakers.

     It is possible to raft a higher section, starting at Dule Gouda, which would add another 30km, but considering the quality of the rapids it probably isn't worth it. Beware if you decide to try the upper section of the river as it disappears underground above Dule Gouda! Perhaps this is what they refer to as class 6.

Bhote Kosi River

     Just three hours from Kathmandu, the Bhote Kosi is one of the best two-day raft trips to be found anywhere in the world. The Bhote is one of the most recently opened rivers in Nepal, and represents the forefront of river rafting.

     The Bhote Kosi is the steepest river rafted in Nepal - technical and totally committing. With a gradient of 80 feet per mile (24m per 1.6km), it's a full eight times as steep as the Sun Kosi, which it feeds farther downstream. The rapids are steep and continuous class 4, with a lot of Continuous class 3 in between.

     The normal run is from approximately Hwy Km 95 (above Barabise) to the dam at Lamosangu. The river has been kayaked above this point, but a raft trip here would not be recreational. At high flows several of the rapids become solid class 5, and consequences for mistakes on the entire river will become serious.

     This river is one of the most fun things you can do right out of Kathmandu and a great way to get an adrenaline fix during the low water months, but it should only be attempted with a company who has a lot of experience on the Bhote Kosi, and is running the absolute best safety equipment and guides.                                                                                        Top

Upper Sun Kosi River

     Not to be confused with the Bhote Kosi which finishes at Lamosangu, the upper Sun Kosi is a fun 20km stretch of easy class 2 water and beautiful scenery. From Khadichour to Dolighat the river is crystal blue, with brilliant beaches on which to picnic. A great place for a short family trip.

Marshyangdi River 

     The Marsyangdi is one of the best whitewater runs in the world. The trip starts with a class 5 bus ride from Dumre to Besisahar, which is a good opportunity to steel your nerves and awaken your fight-or-flight responses. If you make it to Besisahar intact, you're in for a beautiful trek up to the village of Ngadi. with great views of the Manaslu and the Annapurnas ahead of you the whole time. The scenery is fantastic.

     From Ngadi downstream to the end of the trip at Bimalnagar, it's pretty much solid white water. Rapids are steep, technical, and consecutive, making the Marsyangdi a serious undertakine. Like the Bhote Kosi successful navigation of the Marsyangdi is dependent on companies having previous experience on the river, and using the absolute best guides and equipment. Rafts must be self bailing, and should be running with a minimum of weight and gear on board. Professional safety kayakers should be considered a standard safety measure on this river.

     For people looking for a six to seven day trip with lots of demanding white water and great mountain scenery, the Marsyangdi is hard to beat.


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