Underrated rivers

I realize the title is probably going to be subjective.

What are some of the most underrated rivers/lakes? They could be underrated because there are more popular rivers/lakes nearby, or might be difficult to access.

An underrated river for me, is the Bourbeuse River in MO. It is an Ozark river, but doesn’t have nearly the amount of people flocking to it.


I think this one is underrated, maybe even unrated. Lots of flora and fauna. Secluded. Current is manageable for upstream paddling yet challenging in places. I can tell you that it’s a creek in Michigan but beyond that I’m sworn to secrecy.

Great topic for discussion as we sit here in isolation.
I would offer up the Sacramento River the largest in California. It has lots of islands and public lands to camp on. There is a king salmon run. The flow runs all year. From Redding south there are about 150 river miles of paddling or more.

The Edisto is far from unknown but I seldom see very many people on it . It starts in the sand hills and flows to the coast. It drains pine and hardwood forests before entering marsh and ending at the beach. Plenty of swamp along the way. I have met a few interesting critters there I didn’t know existed.

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I nominate the Scioto, north of Columbus Ohio. It’s where I learned to kayak (self-taught, more or less, with library books) and read the river on my old OK Scrambler. Nice enough for beginners (unless at flood stage), usually enough current and rocks to learn to maneuver. LOTS of put-ins and take-outs, for free at public parks. Nice reservoirs.

I used to paddle upstream a mile or two and float back down, negotiating rocks and resting in tiny eddies. Enough current to make me work for the return trip. I did get in during flood stage below Griggs Dam a time or two; exciting and challenging, if not the smartest thing to do.

The Olentangy River and Alum Creek are nice too.

Niobrara River which happens to be in Nebraska.
Trinity River, CA
Green River, UT
Willamette River, OR
N Platter River, WY
Smith River, MT
Snake River, ID

ok, this is my speciality- seasonal small creeks and rivers a bit off the radar, highly scenic but wood often in play, portaging and scouting may be necessary, class II and III ww on many of them. Add all those runs together and consider I’ve done several multiple times and yet only encountered three or four other paddlers (not in my group) in total, so not really worried about popularizing. You earn these creeks!

webster brook (long shuttle, logistical nightmare) and sebois river in Maine

2nd creek, buffalo creek, upper brush creek, lower back fork of the elk, buckhannon, paint creek (horrible guidebook description but a great creek)south branch of the potomac (seybert to milam) and birch river in wv

big paint creek in Iowa

four mile creek, little sciota brush creek ohio

bullpasture gorge Va ( better known than most on the list but a little tricky to catch)

upper wilderness reaches (grand jean)of the south fork of the payette ID, and also main payette below beehive bend down to montour

Ocklawaha River (overshadowed by the nearby silver river and juniper springs) Florida

colorado- crystal river below avalanche creek into roaring fork (some access issues around carbondale)

licking near Falmouth, rockcastle river KY

Metolious down to billy chinook lake OR (long shuttle but 17 miles of continous ww in a wilderness setting!)

2 white oak creeks (one in the clear creek drainage and another in the obed drainage) TN

upper reaches of North Folk of the Shoshone between Three Mile Campground and Big Run, WY

I’d nominate the Jump River in Taylor Co. WI as a top notch underrated river. I’ve paddled it twice. The first time was just a hoot. Darned near continuous class II stuff, ranging from high to low II, with what I’d call a very solid Class III in the middle (Big Falls). The USGS gauge at Sheldon on that trip ran at 500cfs the first day and, with rain during the night and into the second day, subsequently jumped up to 1400cfs.
I considered Big Falls to be beyond my skill level, but there are regulars who paddle that stretch repeatedly and pretty much ignore the rest of the river entirely. One of them did this video of that run. I’d think that would prove interesting to even the most jaded of ww paddlers. I don’t know what the gauge reading was when this video was shot, but it must have been pretty high.

The second trip was at low water and it was among the most miserable trips I’ve ever done. If there’s not enough water to paddle that river bed is darned near impossible to wade. But wade it we did for almost nine miles. I’m not particularly proud of the language I used that day. Finished in the dark.

But it is a remote beautiful river: no liveries, only one small county campground that has about a dozen sites, no houses or other shoreline development that I recall. Not even any aluminum or “color” on the rocks. Otters, eagles, and all the usual cast of north woods characters. I’ll be back.

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Well above my skill set these days. Maybe 15 years ago though. I expect the ending of the clip would look like my style.

nice looking run, I’m with PJC, I would try to catch it a bit lower than what is in the video. I was a little surprised the canoes didn’t skirt more holes and hit more eddies. I’m old school. There are kayak/c1 lines (wet) and then there are open canoe lines. Running holes has never worked for me very well in an oc but the modern ww canoers seem to have figured it out, flotation to the gills and bows that shed water and must not mind paddling with a bit of water sloshing around.