Kayak vs surfski on rivers

Very experienced ocean paddler here, mostly Outrigger but also surfski.
I’m moving away from my beloved ocean to somewhere with a lot of lakes and rivers. I’m tossing up between a rotomolded surfski, probably an epic V7 or Nello 510 and a kayak, leaning towards a P&H Valkyrie.
I expect I will be mostly paddling flatwater but will be venturing onto rivers up to Grade II, I have no ambition to get into big whitewater.
I’m a lot more used to open cockpit paddling so my preference is the ski (it’s also cheaper) so my question is really; is there any downside to a ski or advantage to going a full cockpit once you get on a river?

The word “river” can mean a lot of different things. In the Central USA rives are huge compared to those we have in the Rocky’s and the Sierras. SO any advice about which kayak to get depends far more on the rivers you are going to, then it would about the kayaks. The Valkyrie is 17-3/4 feet long. I own a Chatham17 and I can use it on rivers out here in Wyoming, Montana and also Nevada and California, but in some of the narrower ones I have to be aware of where I want to go and when because the Chatham is 17’ 4". That’s 6" shorter then the Valkyrie. But rivers here are what many call creeks in other states. Here when we are having a spring thaw, the rivers are narrow and can be quite fast. In some states rivers can be hundreds of yards wide.

Now I am not an old-time super experienced paddler, but I have found I can use my Chatham on the rivers we have here, but in many cases a shorter kayak is a lot easier to handle in flowing narrow water. Because I don’t have 20 years of experience I freely admit I may be missing a lot of details, but so far from what I have learned, if I were going to buy a new kayak for what we call rivers in the Rockies, I’d absolutely look at roto-molded sit-inside, and I’d demand a spray skirt…
Gentle rapids do not require this, but rivers are not always predictable and I have gone 5-6 miles down an easy stretch only to find some whitewater I was not expecting around the next bend. At times like that when you need to make fast turns and get in line with the only way through a long kayak can be slower to maneuver. My Chatham needs to be put on a hard steep edge to make fast turns and in churning water, to make fast maneuvers the skirt is a requirement.

Anyway…my 2 cents worth.
May be worth about that much too…

I think you need to clarify what kind of rivers you will be paddling to get the most useful advice. I moved away from the ocean this year and I am finding that my expectation of what different streams, rivers and lakes would be like, even though I have lots of experience paddling some of them, is not quite right. My advice would be to pick up a used fast paddling SOT < 16’ when you are still near the ocean and buy what ever you feel good about for the surfski. Depending on where you move it’s very hard to find surfskis and fast kayaks once you move away from the coast.

Those of us in the Chesapeake Bay Area move from open water to tributaries in our sea kayaks with no problem. Usually exploring the tributaries and smaller streams depends more upon water levels, turning a long boat in narrow channels can require some maneuvering.

Tracy Lynn Martin paddled the length of the Mississippi in a surf ski (Stellar I think). She also attempted to be the first to circumnavigate all the Great Lakes in a single year using a surf ski. Her preference for surf skis is due to her rheumatoid arthritis that makes it near impossible to get out of a sea kayak.

So surf ski or kayak on rivers? Depends more upon your preference and the width of the water. If you aren’t used to wearing a spray skirt make sure you practice wet exit skills.