The Best Canoe Routes in the United States

The U.S. is home to more than 12,000 miles of navigable waterways, and you can bet that avid canoers have explored nearly all of them. While any day on the water is likely to be a good day, the following canoe routes have emerged as the ones to beat. Here are six of the best canoe treks in the United States.

These are our favorite U.S.-based canoe routes.

Bois Brule River

Fuel up in Duluth, MN before driving 45 minutes to Wisconsin’s Brule River State Forest. There you’ll find the 44-mile Bois Brule River, which is frequently cited as one of the best paddling destinations in North America. Paddlers will journey through a variety of ecosystems including forests and conifer bogs. Along the way, they’ll encounter a mix of leisurely streams, whitewater rapids, and ledges. (If you’re traveling north, be prepared to drop 328 feet in the last 19 miles of the trip.) If you’re looking for a mellower paddle, stick to the upper river.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Minnesota-Canada border is packed with wildlife including bears, birds, moose, and wolves, and you can see them all from the relative safety of your canoe while paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Easily considered one of the premier canoeing destinations in North America, the Area encompasses more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes passing through lakes, marshes, rivers, and woodlands. After a long day of paddling, you can rest your weary head at one of the region’s nearly 2,000 campsites.

Buffalo National River

This more than 130-mile canoe trip offers something for beginners, experts, and everybody in between. The upper sections require technical expertise and comfort on whitewater, while the lower sections promise calmer waters for amateur paddlers. No matter where you go, you’ll enjoy stunning scenery in the form of the Ozark Mountains, native flora, and diverse wildlife including elk, deer, and feral hogs. Given the right conditions, experienced paddlers can complete the whole run in approximately six to 10 days. Just be sure to keep an eye on the forecast—water levels are notoriously fickle here.

Current River

Missouri’s Current River boasts stunning views of the Ozarks as well as up-close-and-personal encounters with lush forests and a variety of water-filled caves—and if you paddle the river in the fall, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the prettiest fall foliage around. Given all this, it’s no surprise the river is a National Scenic Waterway The upper sections of the river feature some challenging sections but no serious rapids, although the strong current throughout the river can occasionally create hazardous conditions. (It’s not named “Current” for nothing!)

Everglades National Park

Head to the Everglades’ Ten Thousand Islands to enjoy a choose-your-own canoeing adventure. Set up camp on one of the islands and spend your days paddling from one island to the next, sunbathing in the Gulf of Mexico, ogling the gorgeous sunsets, and enjoying wildlife sightings in the form of herons, dolphins, and ospreys. The Everglades promise a peaceful canoeing adventure for anyone looking to enjoy some peace and quiet on the water.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Clear your schedule and set out on this 30-day, 740-mile trip, which links the major watersheds in the Adirondacks and Northern New England by way of New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. Along the way, the run passes through a variety of small towns, wildlife refuges, and waterways. From massive lakes to small inlets, bursts of Class II and III rapids, and the occasional portage, you’ll have your fill of a variety of paddling conditions. If you’re pressed for time, you’ll find plenty of enjoyment doing a smaller section of the run.

Whether you’ve never held a paddle before or you spend more time canoeing than you do on your own two feet, these six destinations offer some of the most beautiful and exciting canoe routes in the entire U.S.

Hipmunk Staff
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