Kayaking, Rafting, and Tubing is something that can be done on almost every major river and tributary in Taiwan. It’s a great activity that with protective equipment, can be done safely most of the year, and could be a major industry here. (中文版: 獨木舟，泛舟，泳圈內胎)
Thanks to the rising popularity of SUP, inflatables, and boating activities in Taiwan, I am going to start mapping river rafting routes and information on this site. I will include the basics, such as which parts of the river have vehicle access, to pick-up or drop off rafters, and the observed conditions of the river. However the rivers are constantly changing, so the observed water conditions should be used for reference only. It’s advised that boaters should do their own scouting to verify that the river hasn’t dramatically changed since the information was posted. As location and conditions of rivers can change after typhoon seasons.
On this website I will be using the internationally recognized classification system, with colored lines to represent the difficulty of those sections of the rivers. These levels correspond to “low” water levels, which are the presisting water levels that remain for weeks or months after rains, not for flood conditions from plum rains or typhoons.
Green lines will represent Class I and II rapids, which are raftable by most people, and pose little danger to swimmers (people who fall out of the boat) who take precautions and wear the proper safety equipment, such as life jackets and helmets.
It will always be easier to pass these rivers in self-draining whitewater kayaks or rafts, but in low water, these rivers can also be navigated using non-standard rafts such as inner tubes and SUPs, although standing up on SUPs in shallow water carries an increased risk of injury, so sitting down is recommended.
Be advised that fast moving shallow water is still a danger for foot traps though, so if you do enter the water, immediately lay back on your lifevest, orient your body so that your feet are facing downriver, lift your feet out of the water so that you can see your toes, and use your hands to push left and right to avoid rocks and obstacles, and get yourself to the edge before attempting to stand up.
Orange lines represent Class III rapids which require some experience and scouting, and big waves that will flood the boat. For these sections of the river, maneuverable crafts that are self-draining are recommended.
Pink lines represent Class VI and V rapids which should only be attempted by experienced rafters, in groups, with scouting and recovery assistance. Normally calm rivers will also turn into difficult rapids under flood conditions.
These colors represent difficulty and risk of danger only, they do not measure fun. The rivers in Taiwan move very fast, and II and III rapids are often the most fun, and incidentally the safest. These can be passed without too much stopping and starting.
Rivers in Taiwan often have man made barriers such as dams and bridges through them, these will also be marked on the maps. Due to the risk of iron bars in the river, it’s not recommended to raft through the remains of destroyed concrete barriers. Ruined construction projects will be marked on the map as impassable barriers, it’s recommended that you carry the boats around these areas instead of floating through them.
Aside from that, at low water levels if you practice basic safety standards, there is little bad that can happen to you. Wear a life jacket, wear a helmet, and don’t float down the river alone. Pay attention to the weather and don’t float down the river during a heavy rain warning. If you get to a place in the river that you are unsure how to pass safely, just get out and carry your craft around it. You can always come back another day with more experience.
Have fun. Be safe. And share photos and videos of your adventures so we can all see the river levels and conditions. More information benefits everyone.
Below is an overview of river classifications:
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily avoided by trained paddlers.
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. Scouting may be necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills.
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes.
After heavy rains or typhoons, many rivers in Taiwan will become Class V rapids.