Best Places In America For A Paddle Vacation

Sometimes you need to rely on Mother Nature for the most epic vacation possible. While there are plenty of great cities in America to visit, nothing can compare to getting out in the wild and become one with nature. One of the best ways to do just that is with a scenic paddle trip down a beautiful river. The good news is that United States has plenty of opportunities to do that, too. In fact, thanks to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers act, you can find 208 rivers in 40 different states that are protected and waiting for you to explore. Here are some of the best paddle trips you can find in the U.S.

John Day River


The John Day River in Oregon is the country’s third-largest undammed river. It offers over 147 miles of water that ambles along pretty leisurely, so you can take your time and won’t have to worry about any serious rapids…for the most part. There are some pretty gnarly class III and IV rapids around Clarno, but you can easily portage around them if you don’t want to attempt it. After that, though, and it’s easy living. You can paddle at your leisure and camp along the way. You’ll see plenty of gorgeous scenery and wildlife, so if you haven’t invested in a decent waterproof camera yet, you might want to remedy that.

Middle Fork of the Salmon

Frank Church River, Idaho

But what if you do want to tackle some serious rapids?  Look no further than the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. It offers some seriously big white-water rafting opportunities. It’s such a popular destination among rafters that you have to enter a lottery just to get a permit to get on the water during summer. However, at the end of the season, the crowds thin out considerably, so if your vacation days are flexible, plan a trip toward the end of summer. When you finally get off the river, be sure to check out the hot springs that flank the river along most of its length.

Noatak River


Paddling the Noatak in Alaska should be on every serious paddler’s bucket list. It takes a little more planning to pull this one off. For example, you’ll need to plan on using lightweight boats, possible even inflatables, because you’ll have to load them on a float plane and get flown to your starting point. Once you’re settled on the water, though, you’ll encounter what is likely the BEST wildlife viewing opportunities in the country. You can see everything from herds of Alaskan Caribou to wolves and grizzlies. The river is nearly 400 miles long, so you’ll have plenty of water to explore and you can spend just about as many days as you want paddling.