The James River drops more than 100 feet as it passes through the glass and concrete valley of downtown Richmond (pop. 214,000), providing miles of tranquil flats and whitewater for all tastes, from gentle play- holes to Class V test-pieces. The James runs all year and at all levels, from languid summertime lows to maelstrom flows of more than 100,000 cfs. If that’s too frothy for your taste, stroll the many access points of the James River Park System, or enjoy more than 20 miles of singletrack. — Hunter Davis

See more: NORTH AMERICA’S BEST PADDLING TOWNS.

This story will appear in the June 2015 issue of Canoe & Kayak.