Autumn is a great time to visit the river. River and stream valleys around the country are ablaze with beautiful fall colors. Here are some of our staff’s top picks for visiting rivers in the fall.
Ipswich River, MA
Why it’s special: Beautiful quiet water paddling along the Ipswich River through forested state parks and meandering through open meadow wildlife sanctuaries.
To do: Canoe rentals are available from outfitters, at local sanctuaries or for members of the Ipswich River Watershed Association.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers is working with partners to remove outdated dams on the Ipswich River, to restore fish passage and river health.
Pemigewasset River, White Mountains, NH
What to do: This is one of the premier “leaf peeping” areas in the country.
To do: Climb the path to Lonesome Lake and enjoy the fall colors, visit the Flume as it rushes into the Pemigewasset River, bike along the Notch bike path or sit back and enjoy a gondola ride to the top of Cannon Mountain.
What American Rivers is Doing:American Rivers work to improve road-stream crossings in New England benefits our natural areas as well as our more developed communities. In places like the White Mountains well designed bridges and culverts can provide safe passage for recreationists and travelers alike, as well as the fish and animals moving along the rivers.
Farmington River, CT
What to do: Canoe along the Farmington River in Simsbury, CT, or whitewater kayak through Tariffville Gorge.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers is working with the Farmington River Watershed Association to remove dams in the watershed, including the Spoonville Dam on the mainstem of the Farmington River. When the dam is removed, a major recreational boating hazard in the Tariffville Gorge will be gone and shad, salmon, eel and lamprey will all be able to easily move upstream.
Waccamaw River, Coastal South Carolina
Why it’s special: The Waccamaw acts like a mirror for the changing fall colors. The river gets its tea-like color from tannins in the water from decaying leaves. The Waccamaw is home to many unique species of plants and wildlife, including a few that are found nowhere else on earth.
To do: Paddle the Waccamaw River Blue Trail or visit the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers partnered with local leaders to create the Waccamaw River Blue Trail and protect riverside land.
Uwharrie River, Randolph County, NC
Why it’s special: The Uwharrie River flows through rural farm and forestland in the beautiful Piedmont region. It is home to a great diversity of fish and wildlife, from rare mussels to huge bass to eel that migrate out to the ocean.
To do: Fall colors along the Uwharrie are spectacular, and can be best enjoyed from a canoe or kayak on the river. One beautiful section is from the put-in at Low Water Bridge Road to the take-out at the NC 109 bridge, a total of 7 miles. This section runs through the Uwharrie National Forest and has several easy, fun rapids.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers is working with the Piedmont Conservation Council, NOAA and other partners to remove the Lassiter Mill Dam on the river. This will allow American shad to move upstream to historic spawning grounds for the first time in decades, as well as restore habitat for many recreational fish and even some rare species.
Edisto River, SC
Why it’s special: An iconic river for the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Edisto is reported to be the longest unimpounded blackwater river in the nation. It harbors spawning sites for the endangered shortnose sturgeon and its cousin the Atlantic sturgeon.
To do: It is a great paddling river especially in spring and early summer when flows are higher. Access is at Edisto Memorial Gardens Park in Orangeburg County, Givhans Ferry State Park (at Hwy 61 bridge) Dorchester County, and in Colleton County – Colleton State Park (at Hwy 15 bridge), Charleston County – Bear Island Wildlife Management Area and ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve.
What American Rivers is Doing: While the main stem of the Edisto is unimpounded, many of its tributary streams do have dams. American Rivers’ Southeast region is working with partners along blackwater stream like the Edisto to remove unneeded dams
Rogue River, Southern Oregon
Why it’s special: The Wild and Scenic Rogue river is an iconic river in the West – it was one of the first Wild and Scenic Rivers designated in 1968 and hosts the second largest run of salmon in the Northwest (second to the Columbia River). It has inspired luminaries such as author Zane Grey, and thousands of people come each year to raft, fish and hike along the Rogue.
To do: A great place to visit is the short Rainie Falls trail. This trail starts at Graves Creek on the Galice-Merlin road, right where the Wild and Scenic corridor starts. The trails begins on river left (the south side of the river). It’s about a 2-3 hour round trip hike to Rainie Falls, where in the fall you can see salmon jumping as they make their way up the Rogue River to spawn.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers has been working for several years as part of the Wild Rogue Alliance to expand Wild and Scenic and wilderness protections to the many tributaries that feed the river, and thousands of acres of forested lands around the Zane Grey Roadless Area.
Upper Mississippi River (Near Trempeleau/La Crosse/Winona)
To do: Great foliage views from Hixon Forest trails, Perrot SP or Brownsville overlook (for birds) or from the river on one of the paddleboats out of La Crosse or Prairie du Chien.
Why it’s special: Important migratory bird corridor and National Wildlife Refuge.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers is dedicated to restoring and protecting a healthy Mississippi River. We are promoting 21st century solutions, including natural flood protection, that benefit the river and its communities.
Baraboo River, WI
Why it’s special: Over the past 30 years, seven dams have been removed to restore the health of the Baraboo and its fish and wildlife.
To do: Good views between Union Center & Wonewoc.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers is studying the impacts of the Baraboo River dam removals on flooding throughout the basin. It’s a good model for other watershed-scale restoration efforts in the region.
Kickapoo River, WI
Why it’s special: It is a very meandering river through the driftless (unglaciated) area of Wisconsin. The Upper section includes Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, an area that had at one time been slated for a dam, but when the project was ultimately abandoned, left a beloved natural area.
To do: Lower section includes communities such as Soldiers Grove & Gays Mills, which host numerous fall festivals.
What American Rivers is Doing: Kickapoo valley has a long flooding history and the communities of Soldiers Grove & Gays Mills have dealt with that flooding in the most comprehensive manner possible—by moving upland. Soldiers Grove[PDF] moved a couple decades ago, while Gays Mills is in the process of moving now. American Rivers applauds the local, state and federal partners who worked to make these relocations a success, notably the communities themselves and the Wisconsin Emergency Management Association. The community of Soldiers Grove was featured in our report In Harm’s Way.
North Fork Flathead River, Northwestern Montana
Why it’s special: The North Fork river corridor is one of the last best low-elevation habitats for wildlife in the Northern Rockies. Among the many species that call it home are grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, lynx, bald eagles, bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.
To do: Hike along the North Fork road from Columbia Falls, Montana north to the Canadian Border to see great views of fall foliage.
What American Rivers is Doing: American Rivers is a leading advocate for withdrawing the North Fork from all mining and energy development on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.