Famous Rivers

Four Famous Rivers In The United States

Traveling along one of our famous rivers is a great way to spend some vacation time, whether it be for just a few days, or a trip lasting several weeks. You can not only enjoy the recreational opportunities these rivers have to offer, but see a slice of America in the process. Whether your goal is fishing, enjoying spectacular scenery, visiting historic towns and sites, or just drifting along, river travel may be just the thing for you.

The Mississippi River - Here's a quick look at four of our more famous rivers, starting with the Mighty Mississippi. You might start at the southern end and take one of the famous New Orleans river boats upstream for an entertaining excursion. At the other extreme, you could start at the headwaters at Lake Itasca, where the river is only 3 feet deep and thirty feet wide, and take a canoe down its 2,500 mile length. Downstream at St. Louis, at its confluence with the Missouri River, the Mississippi is nearly one mile wide. The Mississippi falls 1,500 feet along its length, with most of the loss in elevation occurring in the state of Minnesota. In your canoe you would pass through 29 locks on your way to New Orleans. If you want to see something besides water and shoreline along the way, you can stop in Minneapolis -St. Paul, St. Louis, Hannibal, Missouri (home of Mark Twain), a whole host of other interesting communities, and of course New Orleans.

The Missouri River - Another river worth traveling, the second longest in the United States, and the 15th longest in the world, is the Missouri. Explorers Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery had much to do with making the Missouri, which flows through plenty of wide open and empty spaces, our of our most famous rivers. You can follow the path of the Corps of Discovery by heading upstream from St. Louis, their starting point. Your trip would take you through Kansas City, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska, Bismark, North Dakota, and immediately after its confluence with the Yellowstone River, into the state of Montana. Perhaps the most awe inspiring scenery along the entire river is in the area of the Missouri Breaks, in north central Montana. Here you can take part in float trips and canoe rides and view scenery unchanged since traveled by Lewis and Clark. Further upstream, you'll pass through Great Falls, Montana where the Corps had such a difficult time traversing the falls. Finally you'll reach the headwaters, near the small town of Three Forks, Montana. Although other tributaries of the Missouri are larger, the three rivers at the headwaters, the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson, are famous rivers in their own right. Famous as blue ribbon trout streams.

The Columbia River - The Columbia River is also a part of the Lewis and Clark Trail. The Corps was no doubt very happy after working there way upstream for 1,200 miles, and surviving a brutal trip over Lolo Pass into what is now Idaho, to be able to travel downstream via the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River, named after an explorer's boat and not after Christopher C., has its headwaters in British Columbia, Canada. If you travel downstream from its source, you will encounter 11 dams, five of them Federal Dams, including the mammoth Grand Coulee Dam. Reservoirs behind these dams offer fine house boating and fishing opportunities. It is the lower reaches of the Columbia, where it marks the border between Washington and Oregon, where you will find the most striking scenery. This area is known as the Columbia Gorge. The Columbia enters the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, a charming town of some 10,000 people. Not far from Astoria is a reconstruction of the fort where Lewis and Clark spent a miserable, rain-filled winter before heading back east.

The Rio Grande - The Rio Grande is one of our famous rivers due in part to its association with the Wild West, specifically the Texas cowboy, and the fact that for many miles, the river forms our boundary with Mexico. Although the Rio Grande (the Mexicans call it Rio Bravo) is a fairly large river in places, it slows to a trickle near its exit into the Gulf of Mexico, and at times dries out completely before reaching that destination. Two areas worth visiting if you have recreation in mind, are where it flows through the Big Bend National Park in Texas, and also in New Mexico and near its headwaters in southwestern Colorado, where the river flows through deep gorges and some truly beautiful mountain scenery. The Rio Grande travels though country rich in history, and in places having a distinctly southwestern American culture.

In choosing one of these rivers for your excursion, you can sample Middle America, the Great Plains, the Pacific Northwest, or the American Southwest. Do all of these and then for desert, visit one or more of our famous rivers on the East Coast.