With the reboot of The River Wild being announced a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to highlight the movies and TV shows that featured rivers and rafting.

The River Wild (1994)

Probably the most famous Hollywood rafting movie and one of the few that is much more than a short rafting clip, this 1994 hit features Meryl Strep and Kevin Bacon. As most rafting scenes go, there are many moments of dicey lines but the biggest head-scratcher is the movie poster, featuring a rowing position that I’m not familiar with.

Equipment: Looks like Clavey Oars, but that’s just a guess. Rafts, I’m not sure either.

Filmed on: Kootenai River, Middle Fork of the Flathead River, Ruby-Horsethief, and the Rogue.

Bird Box (2018)

I, too, wish to close my eyes and hope for the best at some rapids. Bird Box is a post-apocalyptic film about an entity from out of this world that can infect you just by looking at it leading you to madness. The rafting involves Sandra Bullock navigating a river more or less blindfolded to a safe house. While the movie did pretty well, the memes made it iconic.

Equipment: Wooden oar boat.

Filmed on: The Smith River.

Vacation (2015)

National Lampoon’s comeback movie, Vacation, features familiar faces Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, and Charlie Day. No surprise for a National Lampoon, the rafting scene is over the top and worth a watch.

Equipment: 14(?) foot NRS. NRS Big Water V PFDs, NRS Havoc helmets.

Filmed on: Hell’s Canyon.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

No paddles, no problem. This iconic scene looks runnable. Not so sure about the airplane exit though.

Equipment: Some sort of non-self bailing yellow raft.

Filmed on: South Fork of the American and the Tuolumne River.

White Water Rebels (1983)

The best part is the opening scene from 1 second through the minute mark. An IMDB reviewer sums it up best: “Awful, but interesting… However there are some interesting, if often hokey, whitewater scenes that are fun to watch if you’re into the sport.” The entire movie can be watched above.

Equipment: I couldn’t make it through the whole thing, so I’m not sure.

Filmed on: Upper and Lower Kern River.

Baywatch – River of No Return (1992)

Apparently, lifeguards are not only at the beach but on the South Fork of the American too. Stealing a slogan from the Main Salmon, The River of No Return ran two episodes: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2. If you think Baywatch doesn’t have much going on, just read the episode summary from Fandom“Drew shoots at the raft. Shauni is taken hostage, and pushed off the cliff. After Eddie and Mitch save her, she finds out that she’s not pregnant. Eddie proposes to her. Mitch climbs down with the help of a rope and finds the golden boot; Jed arrives at the trailer. Eddie marries Shauni and they move to Australia.”

Filmed on: South Fork of the American

And the rest

  • Deliverance. 1972. Enough said. Chattooga River.
  • Home Improvement – Whitewater. Season 8, Episode 1. 1991. Filmed on the Upper Kern using Hysides and what looks like Brush Creek Rapid.
  • Congo. 1995. Short scene using Avons. I believe this is the Pacuare River.
  • Whitewater Summer. 2022. “Reality” TV show that follows guides around the town of Maupin, Oregon. This is the Deschutes River.
  • Whitewater Summer. 1987. The movie. With Kevin Bacon again getting a rafting feature.
  • Wet Hot American Summer. 2001. A cult classic with a ridiculous rafting event.
  • Canyon Lands. 2021. For the first 45 minutes, I thought I was watching something edging towards Sharknado. It’s not, they’re serious.
  • Up the Creek. 1984. Filmed on the Deschutes River.
  • Without a Paddle. 2004. Sure, it’s a canoe, but there’s good whitewater. Without a Paddle was filmed in New Zealand.

What did I miss? Mention it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

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