Nancy and the gang are all relaxing when George gets the news that she won an all expenses paid whitewater rafting trip for her and three of her closest friends. Bess really doesn't want to go because she assumes she'll die, but they manage to convince her that there might be some hot guys there. Since they have space for one more, Ned comes along. That makes sense because supposedly he and Nancy are having problems...again.
The trip includes plane tickets and a rental car. When they get there though, there's no one waiting for them. No one at the rental place has ever heard of them either. They can't get a car until the next morning, which turns out to be a good thing since someone left them directions that took them along a twisty road that was washed away. They almost die but get stopped in time.
When they finally get to the river, a few people seem surprised to see them. Namely Paula, the person who sent the letter, and Max, her right hand man. Max keeps saying that Nancy looks familiar, and when he hears that she's a private detective, he gets all weird and keeps giving Paula the look. That doesn't stop him from madly flirting with Bess and convincing her to go in his raft though.
Also on the trip are a few local people, Tod and Mike who love causing trouble, and Paula's cousin, Mercedes. There's also Sammy, a chick who keeps making eyes at Ned and acting like she can't do anything on her own. Plus Linda and Ralph who add absolutely nothing to the story. When Nancy starts chatting with everyone else, she finds out that no one can remember entering the contest. Tod also thinks it's odd that he never heard of the company before since he's been whitewater rafting before and lives nearby.
Nancy winds up not having such a great time. Sammy demands that Ned be her buddy on the trip and keeps throwing herself at him. He pretty much just shrugs at Nancy and goes along for the ride. She finds someone going through her pack and keeps thinking there is something weird about the trip. It all culminates with the group finally getting on the water.
Mike refuses to ride with Max and asks George to switch with him. The raft with her, Max, and Bess gets caught in the rapids and goes over the dangerous waterfall. Everyone jumps out except for Bess. Though she winds up being okay, they lose most of their stuff. Paula suggests they go looking for some fresh berries and “accidentally” sends them to a patch with a huge-ass black bear. The bear almost attacks before Max scares him off. Sammy throws herself at Ned again and begs him to stay by her side.
Tod tells Nancy that Max was in a bad rafting accident the year before. He wound up with a huge scar, but at least one local person died. Mike and others blame him for the accident. The group decides to try and relax and get some sleep. Nancy and some other people will go for help the next morning in one raft. Ned and the rest of the group will wait behind.
Sadly, that doesn't happen because when they get up the next morning, they find that someone attacked the raft. Paula convinces everyone that they should just hike to the nearest ranger station for help. They go through their food, set up rations for everyone, and head off. Linda sprains her ankle, and everyone else freaks out over their lack of food and supplies. They finally get close to a trail that will supposedly take them to the station, but it's up a nearly sheer rock face. Paula and Max climb to the top to “talk.” They hear her start screaming and see a body fly over the side and float down the river.
Assuming that Paula is dead and Max is on the run, the gang tries to make the best of the situation. They find an alternative route and spend another night in the woods. Max comes out of nowhere the next morning, smacks Nancy over the head with a tree branch, and then apologizes when she wakes up. He tells her that he didn't mean to hurt her and then disappears into the woods again. Ned finds Nancy and brings her back to the group before they finally find the right path and get to the ranger station.
Before they can do anything, Max comes back from the woods. The guys all attack him and knock him out. Mike and Tod agree to climb up to the station and use the radio to call for help. Nancy decides to help them, but then Paula comes out of nowhere and attacks her. It turns out that Nancy solved a case in the past that put Paula's dad behind bars for embezzlement. She set up the whole fake contest thing because she knew that George would bring Nancy and then tried to kill her several times.
As they fight, Paula gets in a few good licks. Nancy runs away and is conveniently standing right next to a broken barrier when Paula jumps towards her. She takes a step to the side, and Paula falls through the barrier and onto the ground below, dying in the process. Max wakes up and tells them that he figured out something was fishy about the trip and confronted Paula. She made it seem like he was attacking her but then pushed him off the cliff. He woke up in the water and tried to get back to them. Bess and Max then make eyes at each other, while Ned and Nancy agree to try and have some fun on the rest of their trip.
*Bess wears light purple stirrup pants with a gauzy shirt cinched with a gold chain belt. That is so totally 80s!
*According to Nancy, she and Ned have been having problems since they worked together on a case at Flair magazine. I know I read that book, but when I looked at the list of titles, I can't figure out which one it was.
*They have enough problems that Ned isn't sure if she really wants him to go on the trip or if she just didn't have any other options. Then, when the whole Sammy thing starts, she isn't sure if he's really interested in the other girl.
*Nancy warns Bess that there's something off about Max, but Bess refuses to listen because he's so good looking and guys who are so good looking are never bad. Has she forgotten about like every experience she ever had before?
*Everyone is pretty nonchalant about Paula dying. Mercedes just says that she thought her cousin was over what happened to her dad, and no one else comments on the fact that someone literally just died in front of them.
*According to Paula, her dad got out of prison but his life was over and he killed himself. She says that Nancy ruined his life. Given that he was stealing from his job, I'm pretty sure he did all that on his own.
*There is no explanation for why Max hit Nancy in the woods and knocked her out, none. I assume he thought it would make her listen to him, but really? Would you listen to someone who claims he was innocent after literally knocking you out with a tree branch?