Between all our editorial, design and sales staff, we have a combined total of 103 years of whitewater experience. That’s a lot of cycles on the calendar spent traveling bumpy put-in roads, tracing sinuous blue lines on topo maps, sharing accommodations with wintering rodent populations and generally chasing the whitewater dream.

We’re also based in the blink-and-you-miss-it timber town of Palmer Rapids. Sure there’s no nightlife (aside from community center bingo), a box of Corn Flakes costs six bucks, the general store rents only VHS and fine dining is a seasonal chip stand. But if you triangulate between the Ottawa Valley’s world-class whitewater, Algonquin Park’s thousands of wilderness lakes, and the spring creeks that tumble off the southerly edge of the Canadian Shield, you’ll find Palmer Rapids at the center.

Hopefully that provides you with some confidence that we when it comes to river towns, we know what we’re talking about. Here—in no particular order—are Paddling Magazine‘s picks for the best whitewater towns.

[ Paddling Buyer’s Guide: View all whitewater kayaks ]

Best creeking towns

1. Terrace, British Columbia

2. Hood River, Oregon

3. Thunder Bay, Ontario

4. Asheville, North Carolina

5. Jasper, Alberta

6. Lake Placid, New York

7. Revelstoke, British Columbia

8. Nevada City, California

Best all-river towns

1. Fayetteville, West Virginia

2. Copperhill, Tennessee

3. Clearwater, British Columbia

4. Confluence, Pennsylvania

5. Petawawa, Ontario

6. Crested Butte, Colorado

7. Kernville, California

8. Maniwaki, Quebec

Best newbie-friendly towns

1. Beachburg, Ontario

2. Franklin, North Carolina

3. Charlemont, Massachusetts

4. Palmer Rapids, Ontario

5. Forks of Salmon, California

6. Bingham, Maine

7. Canmore, Alberta

8. White Lake, Wisconsin

Best urban whitewater

1. Saint John, New Brunswick

2. Montreal, Quebec

3. Pueblo, Colorado

4. Ottawa, Ontario

5. Watertown, New York

6. Reno, Nevada

7. Cambridge, Ontario

8. Missoula, Montana

Best international towns

1. Sjoa, Norway

2. Pucón, Chile

3. Turrialba, Costa Rica

4. Hokitika, New Zealand

5. Thun, Switzerland

6. Jalcomulco, Mexico

7. Briançon, France

8. Oetz, Austria

9. Rotorua, New Zealand

10. Pokhara, Nepal

11. Tolmin, Soča, Slovenia

Best park ‘n’ play towns

1. Salida, Colorado

2. Trail, British Columbia

3. Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

4. San Marcos, Texas

5. Jackson, Wyoming

6. Enderby, British Columbia

7. Glenwood Springs, Colorado


  1. Do any of those urban towns have world-class play waves, class 1 through 5+ big water rapids, a slalom training course, and class 1-5 creeks? Then why is Washington DC not on the list?


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