Saturday, September 11, 2021

These are America's most beautiful rivers


Picture-perfect passages of water

From fast-paced, winding tributaries to channels that cut through dramatic and deep canyons, America has an abundance of stunning rivers. As well as looking drop-dead gorgeous, these waterways have some intriguing hidden secrets too. Read on to discover some of the prettiest rivers in the USA.

Upper Delaware River

This 73.4-mile (118km) stretch of water has much more than just good looks to offer – it provides a water supply to more than 17 million people. Stretching between Hancock and Sparrow Bush, New York, the Upper Delaware River and its banks are also a biodiverse habitat to wildlife including osprey, bald eagles and deer, delighting those who travel its waters.

Crooked River

Crooked River, located in central Oregon, is a 125-mile (201km) long tributary of the Deschutes River. The wild river is a magnet for fishing enthusiasts, with plenty of redband trout – a type of rainbow trout native to the area – and mountain whitefish in its waters. As it curls around Smith Rock, whose jagged peaks are illuminated by the sunrise, it looks utterly tranquil in this photo.

Kenai River

Running downstream from the western edge of the Chugach Mountains to Cook Inlet, near the town of Kenai, this southern Alaskan river packs in one picturesque landscape after another. The upper section is a well-known fishing spot for Pacific salmon and trout, while the six-mile (10km) stretch before it meets Skilak Lake has plenty of fast-moving rapids.

Skagit River

Seen here from the skies in its lower course near Conway, Washington, the Skagit River looks especially serene. It originates at Allison Pass in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, flowing for around 150 miles (241km) before emptying into Skagit Bay, a branch of Puget Sound in northwestern Washington. Its floodplain is home to a rich array of wildlife, from bald eagles and migrating birds to Skagit salmon.

Provo River

Originating high in the Uinta Mountains, Provo River flows through Jordanelle and Deer Creek Reservoirs before finishing at Utah Lake. Spilling through pastureland and cottonwood groves, its scenic middle course is a magnet for fishermen, containing almost 3,000 fish per mile – the most abundant of which are brown trout.

Loxahatchee River

The 7.6-mile (12.2km) long Loxahatchee River is Florida’s first federally-designated Wild and Scenic River. It originates at Loxahatchee Slough in Palm Beach County, Florida, winding its way through freshwater creeks before entering Jupiter Inlet, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The slow-moving, gentle river has become a popular kayaking and canoeing route, taking paddlers through cypress forests which are rich with wildlife, including birds, turtles and alligators.

Columbia River

The mighty Columbia River is the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean in North America, draining an enormous 258,000 square miles (668,000sq km) of land. Along its 1,240-mile (2,000km) course, which travels through Canada, Washington and Oregon, its immense power is harnessed by hydroelectric dams. In fact, it’s seen as one of the biggest sources of renewable energy on Earth, representing one-third of America’s potential hydropower.

Tennessee River

The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River, comprising an 886-mile (1,426km), U-shaped sweep of southeastern America, draining parts of seven states. The lower course of the river played a strategic role during the Civil War, when it became a route for invading the western Confederacy and several battles took place nearby. In recent years, the building of several dams and reservoirs has contributed to the development of hydropower, navigation and flood control.

Hanalei River

The patchwork of taro fields and verdant peaks on the north of the Hawaiian island of Kauai make a pretty special backdrop for the Hanalei River. Starting at the eastern slopes of Mount Waiʻaleʻale, it flows northwards for 15.7 miles (25.3km) until it reaches the Pacific Ocean. While it may be small, it packs in a diverse array of landscapes, from unspoiled wilderness to pretty pastureland, and turtles can be spotted at Hanalei Bay.

Rio Grande River

From its source in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, the Rio Grande River tumbles through Colorado and New Mexico, before forming the US-Mexico border in southern Texas and finishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Around 196 miles (315km) of its upper course are recognized by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, prohibiting development on the river or its banks. On its journey, it passes through steep-walled canyons like the one pictured here near Taos, New Mexico, as well as scrubby fields and farmlands.

Bighorn River

You can almost hear the sound of rushing water just from looking at this fast-moving stretch of Bighorn River. It originates high up in the Absaroka Mountains of northwestern Wyoming, flowing for 461 miles (742 km) until it empties out into the Yellowstone River in Bighorn, Montana. In this downstream section, trout are abundant thanks to crystal-clear waters flowing in from the Yellowtail Dam.

Mississippi River

The immense size of the Mississippi River is hard to comprehend. With its tributaries, it drains an area of around 1.2 million square miles (3.2 million sqkm), which encompasses all or part of 32 US states and two Canadian provinces. It has been vital to indigenous people for centuries, who relied on it for food, drinking water and transportation, but early European settlers dispossessed them of their lands, developing farms and cities. The river continues to play a huge part in people’s lives, contributing to the economic development of the upper Midwest and providing recreation opportunities.

Snake River

The Pacific Northwest’s Snake River used to be a crucial habitat for wild salmon and steelhead, but today these species are threatened with extinction. The longest tributary of the Columbia River, the 1,040-mile (1,670km) long river’s controversial hydropower dams have badly impacted fish populations. Critics say that the four dams on its lower course have diminished in economic value, and they should be removed so that fish populations can be restored.

Yellowstone River

Rising in Wyoming’s Absaroka Range, the 692-mile (1,114km) long Yellowstone River travels northeast through Wyoming and Montana before joining the Missouri River in northern North Dakota. At the appropriately-named Inspiration Point, it plunges down two majestic waterfalls – the Upper and Lower falls (pictured) – before entering the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. With its rugged, steep slopes crowned by fir trees, this is easily one of the most impressive parts of the river.

Niobrara River

The awe-inspiring Niobrara River flows for 430 miles (690km) across northern Nebraska before joining the Missouri River near the town of Niobrara, at the South Dakota state border. Its name comes from Omaha and Ponca indigenous origin, meaning “running (or spreading) water”, which seems fitting given its uniform, steady flow.

Potomac River

You’ll likely find soaring trees lining the banks of the Potomac River – nearly 60% of its watershed is woodland, making it one of the most forested river basins in the US. The river has two branches: the 95-mile (153km) North Branch and 130-mile (209km) South Branch. These travel northeast from West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains and unite southeast of Cumberland, Maryland, before the river empties out into Chesapeake Bay.

Merced River

Two-thirds of Merced River’s total 122.5-mile (197km) length is protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which has helped it to maintain its untamed feel. Running through Yosemite National Park in California, the Main Fork is a popular spot for white-water rafting, with the 16-mile (25.7km) stretch below El Portal offering thrilling Class III and IV rapids, which are classified as moderately difficult to extremely difficult.

Tallulah River

The Tallulah River flows 47.7 miles (77km) from its origin in the North Carolina mountains to its confluence with the Tugaloo and Chattooga rivers in Habersham County, Georgia, where it forms Lake Tugalo. Despite its relatively short length, it packs in plenty of stunning views along the way. Particularly jaw-dropping are Tallulah Falls, located in a town of the same name in northeastern Georgia, which overlook a 1,000-foot (305m) chasm carved by the river over millions of years.

Buffalo River

The Buffalo River flows for 135 miles (217km) through Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, providing ample scenic hiking trails and opportunities to spot wildlife including Arkansas elk, eagles, deer and black bears. The waterway became America’s first National River on 1 March 1972, when President Nixon legislated to put it under the protection of the National Park Service.

Klamath River

The point at which the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean is stunning from the skies, resembling a swirl of milky-hued sandbanks and glimmering azure waters. The river, which flows through Oregon and California, was once the most productive salmon fishing river in western America but in the past century, fish populations have been harmed by dams. Salmon fishing is integral to indigenous tribes including the Yurok and Karuk, who lobbied for the removal of dams here. Thanks to their activism, dam removal could begin as soon as 2023.

James River

Central Virginia’s James River played an important role in American history. In 1607, Jamestown, in its lower course, became the first permanent English settlement. During the Civil War, it was used by Union soldiers attempting to take control of Richmond. Originating at the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture rivers and ending at Chesapeake Bay, the 340-mile (550km) long waterway is Virginia’s largest river and today, around three million people rely on it for drinking water, recreation and commerce.

Salmon River

Starting at the foot of the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains, the Salmon River travels northeast through a large expanse of national forest before joining the Snake River, of which it is the largest tributary. During the Gold Rush of the 1860s, miners had such difficulty traveling upstream along the river that they nicknamed it the “River of No Return”, a moniker which has stuck ever since. Along its course, there are a few hidden surprises, from geothermal hot springs to white sandy beaches.

Flathead River

This fast-moving stretch of the Flathead River’s Middle Fork takes in vast, untouched forests alongside its rippling waters. The waterway originates at the MacDonald mountain range in southeastern British Columbia, Canada, traveling for 240 miles (385km) before emptying out into Clark Fork near Paradise, Montana. Its watershed is home to the largest grizzly bear population in the interior of North America, as well as accommodating one-quarter of all stonefly species in the continent.

Gila River

Rising in the Elk Mountains in New Mexico, the Gila River travels 630 miles (1,015km) west and southwest to join the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona. Its surrounding landscape encompasses dense ponderosa pine forests, which are vibrant with wildlife including black bears, eagles, deer, elk and wild turkey. Back in 1924, the river became the first federally-designated Wilderness Area in the US, which laid the groundwork for the later Wilderness Act of 1964.

Little Missouri River

A tributary of – you guessed it – the Missouri River, the Little Missouri River originates in western Arkansas, southeast of Mena, flowing for 560 miles (900km) before emptying out into the Missouri. It’s not just shimmering waters the river has to offer. Around three miles (4.8km) south of the city of Murfreesboro, the river passes Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only site in the world where people are allowed to search for natural diamonds and hang onto their finds.

Animas River

The Animas River originates in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado, winding its way through deep gorges and panoramic valleys for 126 miles (203km) to join the San Juan River in Farmington, New Mexico. Photographed here from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train, which travels alongside it between Durango and Silverton, its craggy, pine-covered slopes have a rugged feel. 

Deschutes River

The azure- and sapphire-hued waters of Oregon’s Deschutes River, whose banks are scattered with volcanic boulders, are a tantalizing draw for swimmers and water sports enthusiasts. It’s no wonder, then, that the 252-mile (406km) long waterway is a popular location for whitewater rafting, tubing and kayaking. It’s also a top fishing destination, with more than 3,500 trout per mile in some parts of its lower course.

Boise River

Idaho’s 95-mile (150km) long Boise River has carved out the Treasure Valley like a knife. It starts at the confluence of the Middle Fork and North Fork branches, southeast of Idaho City, and flows through Boise to create the 25-mile (40km) long Boise River Greenbelt, a hugely popular urban park and wildlife habitat. 

Virgin River

Presided over by the towering Watchman Mountain and seen here draped in autumnal colors, the Virgin River turns pearlescent under the low-lying sun. This incredible waterway, which courses through the states of Utah, Nevada and Arizona, has shaped the dynamic landscape of Zion National Park, Utah. Water flows have helped to deepen canyons and create verdant highlands and lowland deserts, while stormy conditions see waterfalls and boulders erupt from cliffs.

Colorado River

The 1,450-mile (2,330km) long Colorado River travels between Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of California in Mexico, flowing through a whopping seven states in its drainage basin: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California. No wonder it’s often referred to as the Lifeline of the Southwest. One of its most photogenic spots is Horseshoe Bend, a 1,000-feet (305 m) deep, horseshoe-shaped meander in Glen Canyon. This formation was created around five million years ago, when the Colorado Plateau uplifted and the winding river gradually cut through the raised rock.

 Frances Carruthers, LE


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