If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure this summer, don’t discount the unlikely hot spots in regions like the Midwest and Southeast, which are chock-full of float trip destinations. Floating along the river is a great way to socialize with friends and experience everything in nature from breathtaking mountain ranges to limestone bluffs to amazing wildlife. Consider one of these picks for your next trip:
1. Current River: Missouri
The Current River is the most spring-fed river in the state, easily floated much of the year.
“It’s pretty much available to float year round unless we get a large quantity of rain,” says Sarah Luebbert, director of communications for the Missouri Division of Tourism. “It’s
very gentle water, for the most part.”
The Current is fed in part by Big Spring, the largest single outlet spring in the United States. Jacks Fork River is a tributary of the Current River and
known to be one of the wildest and most picturesque in the state. Together, they form the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, America’s first national scenic riverway.
Along the way, visitors have a wonderful view of limestone bluffs, caves (some you can float into), springs and various wildlife. The area features more than 100 species of fish,
almost 200 species of birds and 58 species of mammals.
“It’s beautiful because you go on these float trips … and see all kinds of animals along the way,” Luebbert says. “Some of the views are just absolutely breathtaking. It seems
like it’s almost untouched beauty.”
Information about waterways across Missouri is available at the Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association Web site.
2. Snake River: Wyoming
Jackson Hole, WY offers scenic floats down the Snake River. The north section of the river floats through Grand Teton National Park from Jackson Lake to just north of Wilson Bridge
and is regulated by the National Park Service, according to a Jackson Hole float
trips Web site.
“We saw two bald eagles, elk and a beaver,” says Charisse McAuliffe of her trip to Snake River. “It is a gentle ride, with tons of scenic beauty.”
The south section floats through private land from the Wilson Bridge to the beginning of a whitewater section called the Snake River Canyon.
Several companies specialize in scenic float tours and are highly educated about the area. Float trips are also offered outside of the National Park on a southern stretch of the
Snake River, according to the site. Many of these trips include riverside dinners or overnight camping and rafting adventures.
3. French Broad River: North Carolina
For a majestic view of Western North Carolina’s mountains, take a float trip down the French Broad River. The one-block town of Hot Springs, NC, about 45
minutes from Asheville — nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains — thrives off this river, says K.C. Cronin, representative for the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
“The whole town has that sense of sort of lost in the 60s in a good way,” she says. “It’s all about the outdoors in Hot Springs.”
Water adventures abound in the Hot Springs/Asheville area, offering everything from calm floats to rushing whitewater trips. While you’re visiting the Asheville area, dabble in the
many other outdoor adventures including hiking, cycling, horseback riding, hot air balloon riding, and caving.
4. Illinois River: Oklahoma
Travel to Tahlequah, OK to float the lower Illinois River, with its limestone bluffs, clear water and gravel bars. The Illinois River offers camping,
lodging in cabins, fly fishing, tubing and float trips from two hours to two days long, according to the Oklahoma Road Trips Web site.
“It’s scenic, tucked away in beautiful Cherokee Nation among … hiking trails, thousands of trees and miles of river,” says Suzanne Eller. “There are many float businesses, but we own our own raft
and float down the river as often as we can.”
Visitors enjoy easy highway access to many canoe outfitters and public accesses from scenic Highway 10 near Tahlequah.
Those who begin the trip early and paddle quietly can sometimes see wildlife including Osprey birds, white-tailed deer, trout and herons, according to the site.
5. Chattooga River: South Carolina
Chattooga River in Oconee County, SC offers true wilderness float trips, as the only man-made features seen on
the river are the two bridges that cross the river at Highways 76 and 28, says Erin McKergow of Wildwater Ltd.
The Chattooga River was designated by Congress in 1974 as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and therefore has a protected wilderness corridor of at least 1/4 mile
along both banks. It runs through both the Chattahoochee and Sumter National Forests as it forms the border between South Carolina and Georgia.
“A huge amount of cultural history is associated with this river, including Cherokee camps located along the banks, logging during the 1800s and the filming of “Deliverance” in the
early 1970s,” McKergow says.
“The Chattooga is, without doubt, my favorite river in the Southeast, as I’m sure it is for many others,” says Barbra Rodichok of the Nantahala Outdoor Center. “Section III
of the river features mild rapids and calm pools, while Section IV is known for its intense whitewater,” says Rodichok.
More information on float trips in South Carolina is available on the state’s tourism Web site.
Information on other rivers in the area is available here.
(Chattooga River)- Visitors float along the Chattooga River in South Carolina, known for its cultural history. (Photo provided by Barbra Rodichok of the Nantahala Outdoor
(Snake River) – Many wildlife creatures can be seen along the Snake River in Wyoming, as Charisse McAuliffe discovered on her float trip. (photo provided by McAuliffe)
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