Bucket List March 14, 2022
18 Iconic Rivers Winding Through America You’ll Want To Discover Immediately
coastal shores and pristine lakes of the U.S. tend to steal the show, our country is full of some of the most resplendent rivers in the world. These big, beautiful bodies of water are powerful and awe-inspiring, offering a total sensory experience that’s simultaneously grounding and uplifting. These rivers wind through some of the most glorious regions of the country, too, through national parks and dazzling cities, connecting disparate states in the most marvelous of ways. Iconic, majestic, and wholly wondrous, these 18 rivers in America are places you’ll want to discover immediately.
Columbia River - Washington and Oregon
The mighty Columbia River serves as the border between Oregon and Washington, roaring powerfully through the eponymous Columbia River Gorge. Its 1,243 miles wind through some of the most wondrous parts of the Pacific Northwest, and you'll experience some of the best scenery of the best along the
American Cruise Lines Columbia and Snake Rivers Cruise
. This eight-day cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers follows the path of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition, offering guests a beautiful journey through the Columbia River and the amazing variety of environments along its shores. From the lush forests of the Columbia River Gorge to the dramatic Mount St. Helens to the high desert of Hells Canyon, you'll see it all on this incredible, bucket-list-worthy PNW odyssey!
Columbia River, Columbia River
Willamette River - Oregon
Another PNW stunner, the Willamette River is a quintessential part of the Portland skyline. Rose City's man-made skyscrapers and bridges, combined with the resplendence of the wondrous Willamette River, puts this big city in a league all its own. A tributary of the Columbia River, the Willamette's main stem is 187 miles long and located entirely in northwest Oregon. Revel in the resplendence of this PNW stunner while walking along the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park; or, for a totally
book a Yacht Tub tour
Willamette River, Oregon, USA
Salmon River - Idaho
Idaho's Salmon River
is a place of rugged and unspoiled beauty. Known as "The River of No Return," this Idaho river is located within the Frank Church Wilderness, a stunning, 2.4-million acre expanse that's the largest in the Lower 48. One of Idaho's most wild and scenic rivers, the Salmon is the main form of transportation into the most remote regions of the aforementioned region. To best enjoy this wilderness, the Salmon River Scenic Byway is a 161-mile tour de force that's truly unlike any other scenic drive in the country.
Snake River - Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, and Washington
Spanning more than 1,000 miles,
the Snake River is one of the largest rivers in the entire northwestern U.S.
It starts in Wyoming and ends in Washington, spending the majority of its time in Idaho. The landscape it traverses is incredibly diverse, ranging from flat plains and rugged Hells Canyon to the rolling Palouse Hills of North Idaho and Washington. The river was created by a volcanic hotspot that lies underneath what is now Yellowstone National Park. Glaciers and flooding that occurred during the previous Ice Age carved out the massive canyons, cliffs, and waterfalls that make the area such a beautiful destination today. From zip lining and kayaking to camping and waterfront cabins, there are numerous ways to enjoy this PNW wonder.
Snake River, United States
Flathead River - Montana
There are many, many majestic sights in the Treasure State, but none quite compares to the
. This cerulean-blue river begins in the Canadian Rockies north of Glacier National Park and flows into Montana’s Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. The river continues through the valleys of western Montana and empties into the Clark Fork River near Paradise, Montana. The iridescent blue-green waters of the Flathead River contains “rock flower,” fine-grained particles of rock that make it unlike any other river in the country. This glacial silt picked up by the river and its tributaries produces the striking turquoise color, and it's a dazzling and colorful sight you simply must see in person.
Flathead River, Montana, USA
Tuolumne River - California
With the mighty Sierra Mountains, nestled within the wondrous Yosemite National Park, the Tuolumne River is a dazzling, cerulean blue body of water that's every bit as beautiful as the surrounding landscape. This 148-foot river winds through valleys and mountains, and even its very own
. The eponymous Tuolumne Canyon boasts jaw-dropping scenery of cliffs, valleys, rivers, and waterfalls (the California, LeConte, and Waterwheel Falls, to be exact) paralleling Yosemite's most iconic spots. Because this hidden treasure is slightly less accessible than the aforementioned attractions, visitors are rewarded with pure peace and quiet tranquility in this California oasis.
Tuolumne River, California, USA
Colorado River - Arizona
Nestled within the wondrous
, the Colorado River is a powerful force that truly takes this world wonder to another level. Its powerful waters quite literally helped shape the iconic canyon, an awe-inspiring feat that's a testament to the power of Mother Nature. To really experience this resplendent river, you need to be up for a bit of adventure; Kayak The Colorado is an outfitter that offers several different ways to get out on the water and take in all the incredible sights, and they are all bucket-list worthy.
Colorado River, Colorado River
Rio Grande River - Texas and New Mexico
One of the most beautiful rivers in the Southwest, the
is a force that's befitting of the Lone Star State. While the river flows through Texas and New Mexico, it's a wonder to which Texans have long laid claim. For some 1,000 miles, the Rio Grande flows to create the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico -- a quarter of that distance located within Big Bend alone. In fact, the Rio Grande carved its way through the towering mountains of Big Bend eons ago; and today, it's the shining centerpiece of this Texas treasure.
Niobrara River - Nebraska and Wyoming
Nebraska might not be known for its beautiful bodies of water, but the
will challenge your preconceived notions of this bread basket state. This 568-mile river is a tributary of the Missouri River that runs through Wyoming and Nebraska. Far from the wild and fast Missouri River that's most commonly associated with Nebraska, the Niobrara is a slow, sweet passage that's a favorite for water recreation -- especially river floats. With lush scenery and even small waterfalls, the Niobrara is a real-life oasis in the heart of the Midwest.
Niobrara River, Nebraska, USA
Buffalo National River - Arkansas
The Natural State is, pardon the pun, a natural beauty. And the Buffalo National River is truly one of its crown jewels. The Buffalo National River flows freely for 153 miles through upper Arkansas, beginning in the Boston Mountains and ending in the White River. Established in 1972 as America's First National River, this beautiful body of water is one of the last remaining undammed rivers in the Lower 48. The river offers unparalleled water recreation within the
, and truly is one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the country.
Buffalo National River Park Road, Buffalo Nat'l River Pk Rd, Arkansas 72634, USA
Mississippi River - Minnesota to Louisiana
A river that needs no introduction, the Mississippi River is an American icon. It's the second-longest river
chief river of the second-largest drainage system in North America. Its widest point spans 11 miles, a record that occurs in Lake Winnibigoshish, Minnesota. The mighty Mississippi is home to 25% of all North American fish species, and is a haven for numerous avian species, as well, including the beguiling
. The Mississippi either borders or passes through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana -- and bucket-list adventures abound all along its extraordinary 2,340 miles.
Mississippi River, United States
Obed Wild and Scenic River - Tennessee
Obed Wild and Scenic River
is aptly named; this river one of the last free-flowing and wild river systems in the country.
It is affiliated with the National Park Service, and is a region rife with opportunities for recreation and exploration. Hiking, fishing, and rock climbing are popular pastimes in this Tennessee treasure, with its 500-foot-deep gorges providing a compelling and inspiring landscape for adventurers. There are few places more beautiful than the Obed Wild and Scenic River; it's where you come to get lost in the wilds of Tennessee, where you're sure to discover parts of yourself you never knew you had.
Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee 37887, USA
Ohio River - Midwest and Southern U.S.
The Ohio River is a 981-mile long river that follows a southwesterly route from western Pennsylvania all the way to its mouth on the Mississippi River at the southern tip of Illinois. It's a river of immense historic significance; most notably serving as the unofficial border of the North and South during the American Civil War. In fact, in places where the river was narrowest, it was crossed by thousands of slaves escaping to the North for freedom; many were helped by free blacks and whites of the Underground Railroad resistance movement. Today, the Ohio River is a defining part of several cities' skylines; in Pittsburgh, the
is a top attraction that offers birds-eye views of the iconic City of Bridges skyline.
Ohio River, United States
Duquesne Incline, 1197 W Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA
Shenandoah River - Virginia and West Virginia
The Shenandoah River is a tributary of the Potomac River; it's 55.6 miles long with two 100-foot-long forks in Virginia and West Virginia. Geography aside, this river is located in the eponymous national park, a place of immense beauty and splendor. The river itself provides the perfect setting for a range of
bucket-list-worthy adventures in Shenandoah National Park
, from tubing and waterfall chasing to hiking and camping. But this river is equally beloved in West Virginia, where the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, offering perfect panoramas of this dazzling gem.
Shenandoah River, United States
New River - North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia
The New River has been a designated National River since the 1970s; and December 2020,
New River Gorge was re-designated from a National River to a National Park and Preserve
. This river defines one of the most resplendent -- and oft-overlooked -- regions in the country. The New River National Park and Preserve was the first addition to the National Park system since 2018, and it is the only Park and Preserve combination in the contiguous U.S. The river is the face of the park, with its New River Gorge Bridge providing the most awe-inspiring welcome to visitors. It's the longest single-span arched bridge in the nation, stretching 1,700 jaw-dropping feet. In total, the National Park portion of New River Gorge spans over 7,000 acres, and the river is the heart and soul of it all; 320 miles of rushing and roaring grandeur that's wholly wild and wonderful.
New River, West Virginia 25085, USA
Hudson River - New York
Winding 315 miles from Upstate New York all the way to New York City (NYC), the Hudson River is a quintessential part of the Empire State. In fact, the
is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the country; it's a region full of towns and attractions quite literally defined by the river itself. In a state that's home to one of the most populated cities on the planet, the Hudson Valley is the ying to NYC's yang; a place of scenic splendor and small-town charm.
Hudson River, United States
Kennebec River - Maine
Known for its lush forests and stunning coastlines, Maine is also hiding a 170-long gem that's every bit as beautiful as the Pine Tree State itself. There's no better place for rafting and kayaking in the Northeast than the Kennebec River, which is known for its gentle rapids, calm waters, and stunning surroundings. For those who simply can't get enough of this marvelous Maine wonder,
offers beautiful waterfront accommodations that are charming, cozy, and wonderfully, quintessentially Maine.
Kennebec River, Maine, USA
Yukon River - Alaska
Untold beauty and epic adventure awaits in the Last Frontier, and the
Yukon River offers visitors the best of both worlds
. The fourth-largest river in the U.S., the Yukon River is 2,000 miles of immense natural beauty, running from Canada, through Alaska, and into the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, the river cuts through mountains and valleys, passing through some of the most wild and pristine places on the planet. The rafting along the Yukon River is extraordinary, offering adventurers quite literally the trip of a lifetime.
These rivers have inspired artists, poets, adventurers, and naturalists, and are sure to inspire you, too. Come and discover the iconic rivers of America, and enjoy experiences sure to fill your bucket for years to come.
Address: Buffalo National River Park Road, Buffalo Nat'l River Pk Rd, Arkansas 72634, USA Address: Colorado River, Colorado River Address: Columbia River, Columbia River Address: Flathead River, Montana, USA Address: Hudson River, United States Address: Kennebec River, Maine, USA Address: Mississippi River, United States Address: Niobrara River, Nebraska, USA Address: Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee 37887, USA Address: Ohio River, United States Address: Duquesne Incline, 1197 W Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA Address: Rio Grande, Rio Grande Address: Shenandoah River, United States Address: Tuolumne River, California, USA Address: Willamette River, Oregon, USA Address: Snake River, United States Address: Yukon River, Alaska, USA Address: New River, West Virginia 25085, USA Address: Salmon River, Idaho, USA
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article.