North America’s largest waterways are an overlooked asset. Launch your own low-stress, high-yield river adventures at these locations. Pack this durable paddling, kayaking, and rafting gear, then go with the flow.
1. Lower Mississippi River
The Big Muddy has received more recognition as a canoe and kayak destination in recent yearsbut it remains underutilized by paddlers. That’s a shame, because the lower Mississippi River offers countless options for surprisingly wild overnight trips. Launch from Memphis and plan on a five-day, 98-mile float to Clarksdale, MS. The route features a blend of river towns and hidden backwaters, wooded islands and side channels, with camping available on gravel- and sandbars. Pick up rental canoes, arrange a vehicle shuttle, sign up for a guided trip and receive plenty of Mississippi River beta from Quapaw Canoe Company.
2. Columbia River’s Hanford Reach, Washington
If you can get over its checkered history as a nuclear waste burial site from the Cold War, a 51-mile section of the Columbia River in Washington’s Tri-City area is a great off-the-radar float tripfor canoeists or kayakers. The 195,000-acre Hanford Reach National Monument protects the final remaining non-tidal, free-flowing stretch of the Columbia in the US. Wildlife abounds between Priest Rapids Dam and Richland: elk, coyotes, bald eagles and pelicans, along with vibrant stocks of bass, sturgeon and salmon. Camping in the national monument is outlawed but you can pitch a tent on state land near the Ringold Fish Hatchery for an overnight trip. Check out Northwest Paddleboarding in Richland, WA, for outfitting.
3. Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail, Florida
Whitewater in Florida? You’ll find easy rapids and much, much more on this designated water trail spanning over 200 miles across the Florida Panhandle from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwannee River takes its source in the vast Okefenokee Swamp, flowing crystal clear over limestone shelves with deep blue springs, abundant wildlife and free camping on sand beaches. Plan a four- to five-day, 72-mile canoe or kayak trip on the upper river from Fargo to Live Oak. You can paddle the river year-round. Suwannee Canoe Outpost in Live Oak offers rentals, shuttles and logistical support.
4. Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana
The endless grasslands of Great Plains blend into badlands spires and deep coulees in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in central Montana, south of Havre. Lewis and Clark history comes alive on the 149-mile stretch of designated Wild and Scenic River, with painted sandstone cliffs and knife-edged box canyons. Set aside four days to paddle the 65-mile White Cliffs section between Coal Banks and Judith landings, east of US 87. You’ll find wilderness campsites virtually unchanged since they were described by the Corps of Discovery and plenty of silence: Motorized vessels are not permitted in the summer months. It’s easy to set your own vehicle shuttle or rely on the services of Missouri River Outfitters in Fort Benton. The company also offers guided trips and canoe rentals.
5. Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, New York
There are multiple options for overnight trips on New York State’s Hudson River. Launch from Henry Hudson Park, just south of Albany, for a 30-mile float trip to Germantown. This section of river features a gentle current and abundant bald eagles, with overnight camping available at Grays Point in Hudson River Islands State Park. Steiner’s Sports offers sales and outfitting services in Valatie and Glenmont, NY, servicing this section of the Hudson River.