Image courtesy of Tourism Thailand, used with permission
From its source in the Phetchabun mountains, the Khek River travels through a turbulent series of waterfalls and rapids before it empties into the Nan River. An eight-kilometre stretch of the river has been designated for whitewater rafting – the course contains 11 rapids and takes about two to three hours to complete, with each moment more thrilling than the rest.
Rafting season takes place at the height of the rainy season from June to October, when the water volume rises and the river turns brown from the runoff. The rains turn the river into a raging deluge: from a calm start at Ban Pak Yang, the waters quickly turn into a twisting, smashing jumble of Level 4 and 5 rapids.
While the views from the river can be quite amazing – forest almost as far as the eye can see, beyond them a line of misty mountains – rafters won’t have time to admire the view, as they’ll be paddling for dear life, trying to maintain control as the river takes them around on a dangerous dance along fast-moving currents, passing perilous boulder fields and steep rapids.
The worst – or best, depending on your perspective – occurs at the 100-metre-long Kaeng Yao Rapids, whose dangerous ledges and boulder fields require nerves of steel and expert paddling. Everything else afterward is easy, with rapids reaching Levels 2 or 3 in difficulty before a leisurely float down Kaeng Thap Khun Tai marks the end of the voyage.