With America's great riverine artery pulsing through, Memphis (pop. 653,000) has always been a river town. The Mississippi carried influences from north and south, and stirred the pot that gave us such cultural delicacies as barbecue and the blues. The Big Muddy, with its intimate back channels and quiet tributaries like the Wolf River, also makes Memphis a first-rate paddling town. Each June, the city plays host to the South's biggest paddling event, the Outdoors Inc. Canoe and Kayak Race. The 34th running takes place June 20, with organizers expecting more than 500 people in everything from SUPs to war canoes. In the event's trademark mass start, Olympic gold medalists rub gunwales with first-time paddlers, and everybody has a good time. — Katie McKy
See more: NORTH AMERICA'S BEST PADDLING TOWNS.
This story will appear in the June 2015 issue of Canoe & Kayak.