Iconic / Inspiring Canoe Routes

OK - Paul Villecourt was asking me earlier about Iconic Canoe Routes from around the world… and after coming up with a few of our own… we decided to ask around, and see what others would throw into the mix!

This is just a bit of fun… though Paul’s also got plans to do a new sign of this nature at this year’s Open Canoe Festival: http://opencanoefestival.com

I’m more interested in what would - or should - constitute an “iconic” canoe route… and why? More interestingly still… do we see some routes we WISH were seen as iconic… and others which ARE, perhaps without really warranting that exulted status?

Could be from anywhere…

This is the style of sign Paul was planning: from southern France it would be good to have assorted directions…


Somewhere in the Adirondacks or Maine? Somewhere in the Northwest Territories? Elsewhere?

been done

– Last Updated: Jan-27-15 5:05 PM EST –

Watson Lake Yukon

I eschew signs on historic canoe routes. They detract from the sense that you and a historic figure paddled the same river or lake..

I would have screamed if I had seen the same on the Yukon or the Missinaibi

You can add the Thelon, Nahanni Horton, Mountain, Mackenzie..countless others.

Remember Canada highways were its rivers for hundreds of years. And every river is worthy of dam protection.

I think what most people picture for an iconic canoe route would always be one of those northern lakes routes with portages and short river runs with rapids between the lakes. There are plenty of them. But some I think of, being a dedicated river person:

Yellowstone River from Gardiner Montana all the way across the state to its mouth. 600 some odd miles, the longest undammed river in the lower 48.

Buffalo River, Arkansas, over 100 miles, the nation’s first “National River”.

Current River, Missouri into Arkansas, the nation’s first “National Scenic Riverway”, but including a bunch of river on downstream. You start out in the heart of the Ozarks and end up in the flatland of the Mississippi Embayment, and along the way you see some of the largest springs in the United States.

agree completely

I have canoed a BUNCH of rivers from Alaska to Florida and many points in between but not sure if they would be considered iconic. Thats pretty lofty because it seems to require awesome scenery, major historic significance and a definate close connection with the advancement of paddlesports. I guess of the Rivers I have paddled probably the Yellowstone as earleir mentioned, The Snake River through Jackson Hole and possibly the Green River in Utah. Routes I have planned for my future which I would classify as Iconic are the Chattooga River and Bowron Lakes

Coffee table
Nice water !


Google could add ‘river’ to Google Maps.

The question opens a bottomless subject once we force our way past Ozark’s PR.


Calls for serious number crunching of gold and fur.

Why, the Flamingo to Long Key Boomerang qualifies in class.

Agree with Al_a,

Buffalo River, over 150 miles if you include the class III Hailstone section.

Define iconic, please
My dictionary defines icon as image or symbol. It doesn’t list “iconic.” What are the qualifications that make a river iconic?


I found it in the 1963 American Collage Dictonary:

  1. pertaining to or of the nature of an icon, portrait, or image.


The Oxford English Dictionary incorporated “Draft additions” in September 2006:

  • “Designating a person or thing regarded as representative of a culture or movement; important or influential in a particular (cultural) context”


  • 1976 Newsweek 23 Feb. 59/3 “His long-distance picture of Robert Smithson’s iconic ‘Spiral Jetty’, with the artist seen as a speck walking along the top of an arch of his own work, is the finest example of its kind”

  • 1986 New Yorker (Nexis) 21 July 51/2 “The scene was iconic, and as the rioting continued for a second night graffiti announcing the birth of a revolutionary movement appeared”

  • 1998 Independent 6 June i. 22/1 “The conspiracy theories about the assassinations of John F Kennedy and the suicide of Marilyn Monroe all show how persistent this kind of speculation is when an iconic figure dies unexpectedly”

  • 2002 Empire Dec. 194/4 “The opening scene of Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 masterpiece is one of the most iconic images in cinema history”

    Cambridge Dictionary:

  • “Very famous or popular, especially being considered to represent particular opinions or a particular time”

  • “John Lennon gained iconic status following his death”

Merriman-Webster online
"2. a : widely recognized and well-established.

“b : widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence.”

And here’s a list of the 12 most iconic rivers on earth - according to a budget travel agency, that is:


how about a list of IRONIC rivers?
As in irony. Not iron.

French River
Ontario. Part of the Voyagers route

Iconic may be defined
by the antonym: http://goo.gl/7BG0kx

or by the Google search where listing rivers as numbers of searched names gives the online measure of general social importance.

Otherwise the question wades into personal psychology, geo-centrism, egocentrism - the call of the wild…

What comes to mind first…that expletive deleted Buffalo…buffalo buffalo get it ? buffalo.

Not Missouri or the Platte or Deschutes, Colorado at Yuma.

A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch

the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

– Last Updated: Jan-28-15 10:37 PM EST –

will become iconic. Give it a few years. Like its hiking counterpart the Appalachian trail it will become the standard for how to develop and maintain a long distance canoe route. I believe it will increase in popularity over time. Consider that the NFCT begins in the Fulton Lake Chain of Adirondacks- an area visited by George Sears (Nessmuk), an early Field and Stream author, who did much to promote canoeing as a form of recreation. The trail also overlaps Thoreau's North Maine Woods travel, on the West Branch of the Penobscot, and then finishes on one of the most recognizable canoe areas or preservation corridors, in the country, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.


Image - onic
So, we can all have our own view of iconic, right? Interesting list from the travel agency of the 12 most iconic rivers–there list doesn’t have much in common with the list we will make here.

I tried to think which trips I have been on that I’d call iconic. I once paddled up Moosehead, portaged to the W. Branch Penobscot, and continued through the length of Chesuncook. Much of that trip was retracing the route Thoreau wrote about in “The Maine Woods.” I thought that trip was iconic because the book painted an image of the journey, and following his route let me color in the pictures that Thoreaus writing had sketched. It may not have been the best or most scenic trip, but it was iconic. I believe the NFCT overlaps the route we took.


I don’t think so
It will be known as it is for town to town canoeing much of it in bits.

Its not a wilderness canoe route. It was designed with economic development (albeit on a small scale ) in mind.


The segments have existed for 100 years or more

yeah, you got to watch those regional

– Last Updated: Jan-29-15 8:29 PM EST –

planners that believe economics, greenways or waterways, and recreation can coexist. Hmmmm I wonder if anything ever came of this: An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning by Benton Mackaye? I wonder if it went anywhere after 1921?

Don't worry kayakmedic your in good company. Plenty of folks in Vermont are quick to point out that the Long Trail preceded the Appalachian Trail and it is only because they are very nice that they even allow the AT to coexist with the Long Trail from Dalton MA to Sherburne Pass VT. Feel free to do the same with the NFCTers.

I envision local folks chanting about paddling the "entire" Moose River Circuit, using both the NE and NW carry, and paddling the famed Westbranch during a sprucebud worm epidemic.... and who wouldn't want to claim the mud pond carry as their very own, before all the improvements the NFCT has planned? At least you'll still have the thoroughfare and Telos, the East Branch as your very own.

Try to look on the bright side, you'll become "legendary" because you predated the NFCT and paddled stretches of the Dead, Moose, Westbranch, and Allagash before it was even "iconic". You'll be able to consider yourself a bonafide certified legend. You can blue blaze your way into infamy with tales of Lobster Lake, Ciss Stream, or the East Outlet, leaving those NFCTers, end to end speed zombies, in your wake because you were there first and took time to see the surrounding picture.

Just be careful though. Because if the feds get a hold of it they might come up with some weird idea about charging everyone the same amount (regardless of what state you actually live in) That could and would really mess things up.

I'm still waitin' for the feds to ask my permission for the national river status in my backyard. Somehow they never got around to it and what about those pesky boy scouts? Building a national camp 5 miles from my house and not even calling me first..."I was watchin' 'em strip mine the hill they built on, way before they showed up, ahh the good ol' days- coal dust and broken windshields."

The Appalachian trail
is not the end all.

Now there is the International Appalachian Trail. It goes on land to Cap Forillon QC and then crosses the pond.