Best Wilderness River Trips_Canoe

What river trips would you consider canoeable (without risking life and limb) that qualify as wilderness trips? Seems to me there ain’t too many.

Where you goin’?
What area are you asking about? USA? Canada?

There’s lots up here, north of the border.

Beginner, intermediate, advanced; fly in, train in, all kinds to choose from.

Take a look here:


San Juan wasn’t dangerous, if you can
handle isolated class 2+ rapids spaced over 84 miles. You’d need a permit, and nearly everyone carries their water, but you can resupply at Mexican Hat.

Canada don’t count
We’re in real trouble if you have to go to a foreign country to find a wilderness stream. Maybe its so, but its a sad thing all the same. What about the Smith River in Montana? Anybody done this one? Its permit only to camp I hear.

Green river and Colorado River UT.
Both have multi day trips that are pretty much wilderness or national Park. Permits and portable toilets are required and you have to pay an outfitter to take you out (Unless you are into paddling 80 miles upstream) but there are few serious rapids.

You must haul all the water you plan to use unless you have a lot of filters for your water purifier. Don’t bother taking radios but take extra film, and batteries.

If your in NY,
The St. Regus Wilderness Area is a must, No permits, or the oswagotchi river is a wiled area, been there 5 or 6 times

Go to Montana FWP
site to research the Smith. You do need a permit but if you go early you can get them, I think. The Missouri from Ft. Benton on is 150 miles of very remote paddling, no towns,2 bridges, two ferrys.

depends on your definition
what is your definition of wilderness? Trees, solitude, wildlife ???

The dictionary tells me that wilderness is a wild, uncultivated, uninhaibited region.

To me, if I can paddle for 20 miles without seeing a car, person, house, farm, road, train etc. and seeing trees, bluffs, mountains, wildlife ect. and being able to hear the wind and water and sometimes nothing - then I am in a wilderness setting.

Here is what some others think:

The wilderness is near as well as dear to every man. Even the oldest villages are indebted to the border of wild wood which surrounds them, more than to the gardens of men. There is something indescribably inspiriting and beautiful in the aspect of the forest skirting and occasionally jutting into the midst of new towns, which, like the sand-heaps of fresh fox-burrows, have sprung up in their midst. The very uprightness of the pines and maples asserts the ancient rectitude and vigor of nature. Our lives need the relief of such a background, where the pine flourishes and the jay still screams.

Henry David Thoreau

"The outstanding scientific discovery of the Twentieth Century is not the television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little is known about it. "

Aldo Leopold on Wilderness

Wilderness is a place where the imprint of humans is substantially unnoticed. It is where natural processes are the primary influences and human activity is limited to primitive recreation and minimum tools. This allows us to experience wild places without intention to disturb or destroy natural processes. Change will occur primarily through natural disturbance, and minimum human influence.

U.S. Government

Rod Nash, wilderness historian, tells us that wilderness is a difficult word to define. While the word is a noun, it acts like an adjective. There is no specific material object that is “wilderness”. There is no universal definition of wilderness. He believes that wilderness is so heavily weighed with meaning of a personal, symbolic, and changing kind that it is difficult to define.

In early Teutonic and Norse languages, from which the English word developed, the root word, “will” meant “self-willed, willful, or uncontrollable.” From “Willed” came the adjective “wild” used to convey the idea of “being lost, unruly, disordered or confused.” Applied initially to human conduct, the term was extended to wildlife or wild animals as “being out of control of man.” Other Europeans defined wilderness as “deserted places” and “lacking of cultivation.” The idea of a habitat of wild beasts implied the absence of humans, and wilderness was conceived as a region where a person was likely to get into a “disordered, confused, or wild condition.”

Some Native American cultures do not have a word for wilderness or protect land as officially designated wilderness. They believe all land should be respected and all land is used only for survival, whether it be physical, spiritual or mental. If asked, we all have a different and unique definition for what wilderness means to us.

Here are a few areas - most of them I’ve spent some time around - and mind you, not all of them are tame flatwater:

Alaska - Kenai River, Russian River Susitna River, Matanuska River, Eagle River, various smaller lakes up to Denali, Upper Chatanika, Chena River, Harding Lake, Lake Clark - I maybe covered a 1/8 of the state, the most populated at that.

Arkansas - Buffalo River National River

Idaho - The Sanke and many tribs or the Snake, Frank Church River of no Return Wilderness Area, Sawtooth Wilderness Area, Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Salmon River, Sawtooth National Forest, Targhee National Forest, Salmon N.F., Caribou N.F.

Iowa (not considered wilderness by a lot, but they fit into a lot of peoples defintions of wilderness) - Boone River , Des Moines River, Raccoon River, Turkey River, Volga River, Upper Iowa River, Yellow River, Maquoketa River + tribs, Brushy Creek area

Minnesota - Superior National Forest, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, BW.

Missouri - (Rivers) Current, Jacks Fork, North Fork, Eleven Point, and many more.

Montana - Glacier National Park area, Beaverhead National Forest (Wade, Cliff, Hidden, and Elk lakes), Many sections of the Missouri, Gallatin National Forest, Bitterroots, Flathead National Forest, Kootenai Area

Oregon - Rouge River, Columbia River, Deschutes National Forest, Hells Canyon, (Donner und Blitzen National River)

Wisconsin - Turtle Flambeau Flowage, St Croix National Scenic Riverway

Wyoming - Bighorn National Forest, Wind River Indian Reservation area, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Salt River Range, Snake River, Shoshone National Forest, Teton National Park, Yellowstone: Shoshone Lake, Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone River, a few border rivers, 90% of the visitors to Yellowstone don’t go off the road.

The Everglades Wilderness Waterway is probably as close to wilderness as you’ll find in the lower 48. Halfway thru you will be 50 miles from the nearest road, town, or “civilization” of any kind.

Plus the fact that critters live there that can actually eat you! (Mainly mosquitoes, but alligators, too). :wink:

Like an’ ol’ mountaineer tolt me onct’, wilderness is “land what’ll kill you”.

Canoe trips
Check out Florida State Parks! I’m a FLA Guide and found the state parks here are great!If you need more help, drop me a note!

Good Luck

John in St. Augustine, FL

San Juan Utah

Green River Utah

Colorado River Utan

Upper Snake River Wyoming

Yellowstone River Mt.

Missouri Mont.

Madison Montana

Smith River MT

Judith River MT

Athabasca Canada

Yukon Cananda

Slave Can.

Peace Can,

Upper Fladhead Mt

Kootinea MT/BC

Parts of Kazan, Thelon, Coppermine, Back, Saskatchewean, Clearwater,Missinabi How many more ya need?


Sorry to disagree
but I live next to the snake, and its not a wilderness trip. Most of the MT rivers have a road running their length, dams every 10 miles, or are Class IIIs or better. The South Fork of the Flathead seems to have a wilderness stretch through the Bob Marshall, but its a short stretch as far as I can tell, and you have to hike to get to it (from what I’ve read). I’m sure some of the rivers in MT are remote, but drain more desert landscapes. Here in ID, we have the middle fork of the Salmon. But its a raft or kayak trip as far as I can tell. The Blackfoot, where they filmed a River Runs Through It, has a road its full length. There seem to be a stretch of the Big Horn (thru the canyon) that might be good and remote, but it would be torture in the summer.

Sorry to disagree, but I call a river with a couple ranches and two bridges in 150 miles remote and wilderness. In fact they lost a guy down in the “Breaks” this past fall and never did find him. The Upper Missouri in Montana is everything you would want in a wilderness. A river runs through it was not filmed on the blackfoot. I don’t get the impression you have seen much less done any of the rivers you mentioned.

Zippy mentioned this river in the ADK but the real trip is to start out at the lower dam on the Bog River and go up through Lows Lake. Carry about 3/4 to one mile to Big Deer Pond, across Big Deer to the 2+ mile carry to the headwaters of the Oswegatchie and down to Inlet. You will be miles from where God lost his shoes. You probably won’t see anyone after you leave Lows until you get to High Falls on the Oswegatchie. (Lots of native wildlife) Takes almost three days to complete. The river paddling can be tough. It’s all switchbacks and beaver dams. Pack light!

Smith in Montana
The Smith river in Montana is my favorite river in Montana. But, it is so regulated and so hard to get a permit, that I seldom get a chance to go there. I have had my share of fun there, time to let some others see it.

I used to do BWCA back in the 60’s but we now go to Lac La Rounge area in Sask. Same granite campsites, 1000’s of lakes and rivers, camp anywhere, no permits, no people, fantastic fishing, drink from lakes, few bugs, great swimming.

That said, I still like to canoe anywhere I can get my canoe on water, prefer FL in the winter.There are over 50 rivers to paddle there, some gin clear, and the worst winter day there is like the best summer paddling day in Montana.


– Last Updated: Feb-21-04 9:05 AM EST –

Thats the kind of constructive remarks I was looking for. And I mentioned before that I am getting back into canoeing after 20 years of absence. I've been packing with livestock only for about 20 years. You want to find something in the Winds, I'll tell you how to get there. Now my arthritic knees won't allow for that, so I try to get a little good information about similar remote trips with a canoe. Some of you easterners feel remote when you don't see phosphate foam on the shores anymore, or stop seeing trash piled up at the high water line. It takes a little more for me I guess. And I cut my teeth on eastern rivers and the everglades when most of y'all were havin' your rear-ends cleaned for you. Now excuse my stupidity, but "take-a-number" campgrounds and Yellowstone crowds don't make me feel like I'm getting a wilderness experience. So there's a few remote stretches of non-class III rivers left and I don't know 'bout them right off. Excuuuuse me!

Look beaverjack
paddletothesea and others have given you many remote rivers to choose from. So just go and have fun. It seems as if you have plenty of experiance and I bet you can find a place to pitch your tent in spite of the rest of us.

If on the other hand you want to find a place worthy of your presence I guess your on your own.

Hey Beaverjack
Nice touch. Very collegial.