Kayakers, canoeists, and stand-up paddleboarders can’t get enough of spending time on the river in a boat that doesn’t have a motor and is powered by muscle. Whether you like to surf whitewater waves or take it easy on a flatwater float. The US has great flows in many different areas, from the Desert Southwest. The Great Plains region to Alaska and New England. Here are a few of the best rivers in the US for paddling.
John Day River (oregon)
There is beautiful semi-arid Interior Northwest scenery along the famous John Day. A long river flowing entirely in Oregon and one of the longest rivers in the Lower 48 that are not damned. Basalt cliffs, tall buttes and pillars, and badlands surround the river. Which drains much of the Blue Mountain region in central and eastern Oregon, including the Ochocos, the Aldrich, the Strawberries, the Greenhorns, and the Elkhorns.
The 48-mile run between Service Creek and Clarno, also the 70-mile run from Clarno to Cottonwood. The most popular spring and early summer river trip. This river is calm, but the Clarno Rapid is a Class III rapid. And the Basalt Rapids, usually a Class II rapid, can become a Class III rapid during high flow.
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Middle Fork Of The Salmon River (idaho)
The Middle Fork is one of the most famous whitewater runs and the best kayaking rivers in the world. It flows through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness of Central Idaho. One of the largest roadless areas in the contiguous United States.
Experienced kayakers can go on a trip that is almost 100 miles long and has long stretches of constant whitewater and some tough Class III+/IV rapids, such as Velvet Falls, Pistol Creek Rapid, and Cramer Creek Rapid. There is a lot of wildlife on the canyon walls, like bighorn sheep, elk, black bears, and more. There are also hot springs, which are a bonus.
Colorado River (colorado/utah/nevada/arizona)
Colorado is one of the most well-known rivers to run in the world, if not the most famous. The journey through the Grand Canyon is especially famous because it combines big water, like the giant Lava Falls, which may be the most famous rapid in America, with breathtaking scenery in the middle of an unbeatable gorge.
But there are so many other great places to paddle on Colorado and its tributaries, like the wild Cataract Canyon below the mouth of the Green River, the short yet sweet portal of Westwater Canyon, as well as the easy-to-navigate Black Canyon of Colorado, which is great for kayaking and also has flat water for stand-up paddleboarding.
The Buffalo was the first river in the US to be named a National River, and its course across the Ozark highlands offers among the best canoe trips in the middle of the country. This undammed gem rolls between places like Ponca and Pruitt or Dillard’s Ferry, as well as Rush Landing, where paddlers can see huge sedimentary bluffs and walls like the 550-foot-tall Big Bluff and the 590-foot-tall Ludlow Bluff.
Upper Iowa River (iowa)
Think that Iowa is just a bunch of corn and soy fields? Upper Iowa will blow you away with a beautiful river that flows into the Mississippi. It would be the top choice for Wild and Scenic status in Hawkeye State and is one of the best rivers in the Midwest for kayaking and canoeing.
Most people paddle among Kendallville and Decorah, known for its tall limestone bluffs and beautiful bottomland forests. However, longer trips can be taken if you start further upstream. Hold an eye out for bald eagles, wonderful blue herons, white-tailed deer, and perhaps even a mink or river otter as you enjoy Iowa’s dramatic landscape from the best seat in the house.
One of the most famous canoe streams in the Upper Midwest is the Flambeau. This branch of the Chippewa River flows across the Flambeau River State Forest for most of its length. This forest shows off the best of the Wisconsin North Woods. The North and South spears of the Flambeau have great stretches, and you’re sure to see or observe a timber wolf together on the way.
There aren’t numerous canoe rivers as famous as the Allagash. Henry David Thoreau wrote a famous book about it called Maine Woods. It’s the hub for the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a paddling pilgrimage that features the nine-mile thrill of Chase Rapids and more tranquil waters like Umsaskis Lake and Round Pond. Allagash Falls, which drops 40 feet, is a beautiful sight, as the long-legged, swollen-nosed moose often shows up.
New River (north Carolina/virginia/west Virginia)
The New has some of the biggest whitewater in the East. Despite its name, it is one of the earliest rivers in North America, considered anywhere from a few million to several hundred million years old. Class III to Class V rapids, like Double Z, Greyhound, and Keeneys, rage on the Wildwater below Thurmond in the beautiful New River Gorge in West Virginia. The upper part of the gorge is still exciting, but it is open to paddlers with a wider range of skills.
If you want to paddle through a real wilderness, you won’t be able to do better than Arctic Alaska’s Noatak, which drains the country’s cleanest watershed. The 425-mile-long Noatak starts in the Brooks Range and mostly flows through the huge, remote protected areas of Gates, the Arctic National Park & Preserve, and Noatak National Preserve on its way to Kotzebue Sound. Its tundra banks may be home to caribou, moose, grizzly bears, wolves, and wolverines, among other animals.