Bucket List June 27, 2022
14 Epic River Expeditions Across The U.S. That Are Worthy Of Your Bucket List
There are some of us who see a big, beautiful body of water and think,
Ahh, vacation. For those folks, the U.S. is full of beautiful, bucket-list-worthy coastal locales, lovely inland lakes, and even accommodations located right on the water.
However, there’s another type that sees the same big, beautiful body of water and thinks,
Challenge accepted. These are the rough-and-rugged types always looking for a waterfall to swim in or the next big adventure. And that’s what today’s Bucket List is: that next big, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We searched all across the U.S. for the most epic river expeditions, from whitewater rafting and record-breaking floats to multi-day, multi-terrain, test-your-grit wilderness excursions. Of the 14 expeditions listed below, a few are on the Midwest’s Great Lakes, bodies of water we consider to be every bit as epic as their river brethren. And here’s the thing: even if you’re more of a river lounger than Class V rafter, we think you’ll still be able to find an adventure tailor-made for your ability and adventurous acumen here!
Rogue River - Oregon
Momentum River Expeditions, 3195 E Main St, Ashland, OR 97520, USA
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
is a natural treasure that's home to over 200 miles of rushing rivers, 324,000 acres of lush forests, and perfect panoramas of mountains, meadows, streams, and lakes. Its crown jewel is the cerulean blue, 215-mile Rogue River, the third largest in Oregon and a place of infinite water recreation and activity. Whitewater rafting on the mighty Rogue River is an experience that should be on every adventure seeker's bucket list, and Momentum River Expeditions organizes epic adventures worthy of this setting. The outfitter's four-day "Wild Section" excursion down the Rogue is a once-in-a-lifetime journey down thrashing rapids and white-capped waters that's a true "Great American" adventure. It's one of the country’s great summer wilderness trips, and an experience you can only have in Oregon.
Salmon River - Idaho
Floating, rafting, kayaking, fishing -- there’s no shortage of ways to connect with the Gem State's many glorious rivers. The
is easily the most sought-after natural playground in Idaho, however; it's 425 miles of rugged and resplendent beauty that, depending on where you are, features white-capped rapids as well as gentler cascades. Idaho Adventures offers a variety of scenic floats down the Salmon River that are accessible even for families and those looking to spend a relaxing day on the river. The half-day Salmon River Scenic Float is offered daily from March through September and flows 6-10 miles down the river, depending on water levels. It's a beautiful and bucket-list-worthy adventure
, opening up the glory of the Great Outdoors to all.
Smith River - Northern California
Smith River, CA 95567, USA
One of the most beautiful places in California -- and the country -- the Smith River is a dazzling gem with turquoise waters and cold, flowing rapids. It's the perfect place for all sorts of
whitewater rafting adventures
, but if you want to take things to the next level, we suggest Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) down the sublime Smith. Momentum River Expeditions leads SUP adventures on this resplendent river; it's the kind of experience that will challenge and test even the most seasoned adventurer, but as we all know, with great challenges come great rewards -- and personal growth.
Middle Fork American River - California
For those looking for the adventure of a lifetime, California's Middle Fork American river delivers. This river, comprised of Class III-IV rapids, offers a kayaking experience that will test the grit and gumption of the most seasoned outdoorsman and woman. While the river is known as a
celebrated summer swimming hole
, NorCal's All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting offers single and multi-day trips that traverse the most rushing and fastest flowing sections of this river. Grab a helmet and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!
Grand Canyon - Arizona
BYU Outdoors Unlimited, 2201 N Canyon Rd, Provo, UT 84604, USA
Easily among the most scenic natural wonders in Arizona, the Colorado River is a force to be reckoned with. Its powerful waters have carved out some of the state's most iconic landmarks, from Horseshoe Bend to the mighty Grand Canyon itself. There are so many ways to enjoy the incredible naturescape of Arizona, and kayaking happens to be one of our very favorites. Outfitters like Kayak The Colorado and
Outdoors Unlimited Grand Canyon Rafting
let you explore the scenic Colorado River on either a kayak, canoe, or raft, visiting iconic destinations such as Horseshoe Bend and Hoover Dam.
Arkansas River - Colorado
45000 US-50, Cañon City, CO 81212, USA
Colorado is famous for its beautiful wilderness and exciting outdoor adventures -- where the
rushes through the Royal Gorge is an adventurer’s dream, with thrilling Class IV-V rapids and immense views. On a rafting trip with Echo Canyon, you can opt for either a half-day rafting trip along gentler rapids or an adrenaline-pumping trip down boisterous, white-capped waters. While the Grand Canyon of Arizona often steals the show in terms of whitewater excursions, the Arkansas River is just as incredible and challenging, offering a unique aquatic experience all its own.
Big Bend - Texas
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834, USA
in and of itself, Big Bend National Park is a dream for outdoor enthusiasts. The canyon was carved by the Rio Grande and is the premier kayaking and paddling destination in the park. There are plenty of outfitters in and around Big Bend National Park that offer rafting and canoe trips down the river, offering an unparalleled perspective of these massive, majestic canyon calls. Of course, if you prefer to stay on land, there is also a beautiful hiking trail that winds along the river, against the sheer rock faces of this otherworldly gorge. The cliffs also keep the trail and river shaded, providing a much more pleasant recreation experience than on other, more exposed adventures in the park.
Apostle Island National Lakeshore - Wisconsin
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, USA
Sea caves and untamed wilderness; this is the magic that awaits at the
Apostle Island National Lakeshore
, a place acclaimed for its kayaking and water-bound adventures. Yes, this is technically a
adventure, but we think Lake Superior is, pardon the pun,
for water recreation. There are 22 islands in the Apostles; sea kayaking is easily the best way to explore, as many of the caves and coastline formations can
be accessed from the water. In fact, the islands have become a world-renowned destination for paddlers. Though striking from afar, the opportunity to get up-close to these commanding monoliths is something that shouldn't be passed up.
Cana Island Lighthouse - Wisconsin
Cana Island Lighthouse, 8800 E Cana Island Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202, USA
One of the most iconic lighthouses in the Midwest, Cana Island is a beautiful beacon that, while accessible via a scenic hike, is best viewed from the water. And on a paddling excursion with Door County Adventures, that's exactly what you'll get to do. On this half-day adventure, you'll
get a whole new perspective of Cana Island
: a mariner's perspective! The trip includes a tour of the lighthouse, a locally provided picnic, and a scenic paddle around the cold clear waters of Lake Michigan that surround the island, and is an absolutely enchanting *and* accessible adventure for lighthouse enthusiasts.
Buffalo National River - Arkansas
Buffalo National River Park Road, Buffalo Nat'l River Pk Rd, Arkansas 72634, USA
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 Arkansas Ozarks, with some of the kayaking in the country. Buffalo Outdoor Center organizes myriad adventures down this resplendent river, from half-day floats to multi-day journeys. Regardless of your your rafting acumen, opportunities abound for all to experience one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the country.
New River Gorge - West Virginia
ACE Adventure Resort | Whitewater Rafting West Virginia, 1 Concho road, Oak Hill, WV 25901, USA
New River Gorge
has a kayaking history that goes back much further than its national park status. 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. 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. Intrepid explorers have the opportunity to paddle beneath this architectural marvel, which is an experience absolutely befitting of anyone's bucket list. 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 al: 320 miles of rushing and roaring grandeur that's wholly wild, and wonderful.
Chattooga River - South Carolina and Georgia
Wildwater Chattooga: Rafting & Canopy Tours, 1251 Academy Road S-37-14, Long Creek, SC 29658, USA
The American South is often left out of the equation when it comes to epic outdoor adventures, but the Chattooga River truly is a place that belongs on every adventurer's bucket list. Spanning Georgia and South Carolina, the
is an epic playground for everyone. It has some Class V rapids, but most people seek out a more accessible trip that traverses Section 2 and 3 of the river. During Section 2, you'll float over and around gentle Class I and II rapids, as well as enjoy calmer sections of the deep, clear-blue water. There are forks and opportunities for turning this trip into a more advanced excursion, making for a veritable "Choose Your Own Adventure" experience on the wild waters of the Chattooga!
Penobscot River - Maine
Northeast Whitewater Rafting & Moose Tours, 155 Greenville Rd, Shirley Mills, ME 04485, USA
In the far northeastern corner of the contiguous U.S., the Pine Tree State is a place of untamed and untouched beauty. Home to lush landscapes, cold waters, and active wildlife, the best way to experience Maine is to immerse yourself in it -- literally. The rivers of Maine were made for rafting, and Northeast Whitewater Rafting & Moose Tours takes the "river float" experience to the next level with its
. Maine has the highest moose population in the Lower 48, in fact, with these marvelous mammals outnumbering humans in the Pine Tree State. Nevertheless, you'll need a little help finding the elusive Maine moose; and that's exactly what the guides at this outfitter do: guide kayakers through the rugged wilds of the Moosehead Lakes region while also getting adventures up close with the state's majestic mascot.
Upper Alesk River - Alaska
Rafting and kayaking trips abound in the Last Frontier, and most are (understandably)
relegated to summer
. The Upper Alesk River excursion is no different; this 12-day, 155-mile journey navigates through one of the only truly wild parts of North America. This excursion with Wilderness River Outfitters is consistently rated as *the* top river expedition
in the world
, and once you experience it, you'll undoubtedly agree. Paddling past the largest non-polar ice cap on the planet, through an otherworldly landscape of immense grandeur and beauty, adventurers have the unique opportunity to experience Alaska through all the senses. Watch and listen to massive icebergs calving off active glaciers in this dynamic environment; feel the spray of the shockingly cold waters; experience a birds-eye view as you take a helicopter flight over one of the most wondrous landscapes in the world; ogle the vibrant Alaska wildflowers and colorful summer sunsets over snow-capped peaks and glacial lakes... these images and memories that will profoundly change you -- and stay with you forever.
Go out there and surprise yourself — you are so much stronger and more capable than you think. And this spirit of discovery is the heart of our
Bucket List features; it’s the wonder and awe that fans and feeds our insatiable wanderlust. Address: Smith River, CA 95567, USA Address: Wildwater Chattooga: Rafting & Canopy Tours, 1251 Academy Road S-37-14, Long Creek, SC 29658, USA Address: Momentum River Expeditions, 3195 E Main St, Ashland, OR 97520, USA Address: 45000 US-50, Cañon City, CO 81212, USA Address: BYU Outdoors Unlimited, 2201 N Canyon Rd, Provo, UT 84604, USA Address: Salmon River, Idaho, USA Address: ACE Adventure Resort | Whitewater Rafting West Virginia, 1 Concho road, Oak Hill, WV 25901, USA Address: Alsek River, Alaska, USA Address: Northeast Whitewater Rafting & Moose Tours, 155 Greenville Rd, Shirley Mills, ME 04485, USA Address: Buffalo National River Park Road, Buffalo Nat'l River Pk Rd, Arkansas 72634, USA Address: Big Bend National Park, TX 79834, USA Address: Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, USA Address: Cana Island Lighthouse, 8800 E Cana Island Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202, USA