When you want to cool off on a warm day in a theme park—and the resort’s signature log flume is shut down for a major makeover—there’s nothing quite like a river rafting ride, and each of Disney’s domestic resorts is home to one of the world’s most elaborate examples of the genre. But is Kali River Rapids at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom really a match for its slightly younger cousin, the Grizzly River Run in Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort? The Unofficial Guides’ ongoing Disney vs. Disney series is back to answer that debate with a deep dive into Disney’s dampest E-Ticket rides.
Whitewater raft rides have been a hot-weather favorite of theme park patrons for decades. Attractions of this type consist of an unguided trip down a man-made river in a circular rubber raft, with a platform mounted on top that seats up to a dozen people. The rafts essentially float freely in the current and are washed downstream through rapids and waves. Because the river is fairly wide with numerous currents, eddies, and obstacles, there is no telling exactly where the rafts will go. Thus, each trip is different and unpredictable.
What distinguishes Kali River Rapids and Grizzly River Run from most other theme park raft rides is Disney’s trademark attention to visual detail. Where many similar rides essentially plunge down a concrete ditch, Disney’s versions both take place in richly themed environments. But although they share similar hardware and debuted less than two years apart, Kali and Grizzly are far from identical experiences.
Kali River Rapids at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Kali River Rapids flows through a dense rainforest and past waterfalls, temple ruins, and bamboo thickets; emerges into a cleared area where greedy loggers have ravaged the forest; and finally drifts back under the tropical canopy as the river cycles back to Anandapur. Along the way, your raft runs through a gauntlet of raging cataracts, logjams, and other dangers.
The queuing area, which winds through an ancient Southeast Asian temple, is one of the most striking and visually interesting settings of any Disney attraction; the sights on the raft trip itself are also first-class.
That said, Kali River Rapids is marginal in two important respects: First, you get only about 3½ minutes on the water after cresting the initial lift hill. Second, although you get wet, the drops and rapids aren’t all that exciting, making it somewhat of a “weenie“ ride.
Experience a full ride on the Kali River Rapids with our 4K POV video below:
Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure
Grizzly River Run winds around and through Grizzly Peak, the park’s foremost visual icon, with the great rock bear at the summit.
Featuring a 50-foot climb and two drops—including a 22-footer where the raft spins as it descends—the ride flows into dark caverns and along the mountain’s precipitous side before looping over itself just before the final plunge. Period-appropriate props support the mid-century national park theme.
The rafts, which seat up to eight passengers, are a little smaller than those used on most rides of the genre. Because the current can buffet the smaller rafts more effectively, the ride is wilder and wetter.
Grizzly River Run is a heart thumper, one of the best of its genre anywhere. And at over 5 minutes from lift hill to unload, it’s also one of the longest. The visuals are outstanding, and the ride is about as good as it gets on a man-made river.
Take a trip down the Grizzly River Run with this 4K POV video:
Kali vs. Grizzly: The Final Verdict
While it’s true that Kali River Rapids is among the most immersive raft rides in any theme park, Grizzly River Run outdoes it, setting a standard that has yet to be equaled in America…with the arguable exception of Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.
We rate Kali River Rapids as 3 1/2 stars in The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and we give Grizzly River Run 4 1/2 stars in The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.
For all there is to see and do in Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. If you are visiting Anaheim, you will want to get The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Threads, X, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. #unofficialguide #theUGSeries