Get Out and Enjoy These Rivers in Winter

River recreation and travel – not to mention beauty – don’t freeze up after summer vacation season. Here’s a look at five rivers that remain active and enjoyable during the winter months and what American Rivers is doing to save these special places. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Simple Luxuries

Columbia River Gorge (Washington and Oregon)

Columbia RiverColumbia River Gorge | WSDOT

In winter, action in the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood switches from kiteboarding to snowboarding–and skiing, snowtubing and hiking, all with stunning river views. The area also provides an optimal climate for wine growers, who have in turn attracted creative chefs, memorable dining and popular breweries to the area, year-round. As Sunset magazine puts it: “It’s like Vail at one-sixteenth the price.” American Rivers spearheaded dam removal and river restoration efforts to revitalize salmon runs and recreation opportunities on nearby rivers like the White Salmon and Hood.

Clearly Challenging

Green River and Flaming Gorge

Green River, Flaming GorgeFlaming Gorge | Cliff Hall

Known as a world-class fishery for its crystal-clear water and many species of trout, the stretch of the Green River from Wyoming to Colorado offers an abundant range of winter experiences. Bundle up and give wintertime fly fishing, or even ice fishing a try. American Rivers is helping local groups fight the development of a costly water pipeline that would harm river health and recreation opportunities.

A Smooth Ride

Verde River

Verde RiverVerde River | Andy Atzert

Winter is the high-water mark for Arizona’s Verde River, the time when river rafting is easy, and inflatable kayak is the way to travel. In warmer months, the lower water levels may not permit a smooth ride, but from January to April, you can slide and glide through what USA Weekend calls the “most beautiful place in the world.” Add the arts, shopping and dining in towns like Sedona and Prescott, and such historic sites as the stunning Tuzigoot National Monument pueblo near Clarkdale, and it’s clear why American Rivers and our partners are developing a Verde River Blue Trail.

Mississippi Madness

Upper Mississippi River

Mississippi RiverMississippi River | Scott Smithson

Not to be outdone by New Orleans to the south when it comes to celebrating, the denizens of the Upper Mississippi River compete for quirkiness in the frozen months, offering all kinds of winter fun: “official” snowball fights, ice and snow sculpting competitions, outhouse races, turkey bowling and, of course, plunges into ice-cold water. But one of the biggest regional winter draws is bald eagle watching, as the birds gather annually to feed along the river. Guides, many of them volunteer experts, lead groups on quiet river walks for an up close look at the eagles and other wildlife. American Rivers is active throughout the Mississippi Basin, working to remove outdated dams, boost water quality, and improve flood protection.

Tall and Cool

Congaree River

Congaree RiverCongaree River | Rebecca Haynes

South Carolina’s Congaree River and its floodplain have nourished some of the tallest trees in America. You can explore these “Champion” trees–and maybe even discover a new record-breaker–year round. Mild winter temps mean no mosquitoes, no crowds, no problem. Explore Congaree National Park’s miles of boardwalk on foot, or take the canoe trail, either with a guide or BYOC (canoe, that is) through one of the many outfitters. American Rivers was instrumental in creating the Congaree River Blue Trail. At the upper end in Columbia, you’ll find a fun, historic university town with stellar barbecue, craft brews, music and a zoo and garden on the river banks. Don’t miss the highly rated Columbia Museum of Art’s winter exhibit featuring the Hudson River School painters–a river twofer. And pick up a copy of Saints at the River, the book at the center of the city’s One Book, One Columbia reading celebration.

What are some of your favorite rivers to be on in the winter?