By Joe Cook
"Paddle faster, I hear banjo music" boat decals might have originated in Georgia, but Georgia River Network's Paddle Georgia debunks the myth of gap-toothed hillbillies terrorizing canoeists. This seven-day adventure covers 100 miles on a different river each June and involves some 400 paddlers ranging in age from 4-84. The event has been called "summer camp for grown ups" and in 10 years has become the largest week-long group paddle in the nation. Venturing on everything from whitewater in the Appalachians to gator-patrolled blackwater along the state's coast, it takes full advantage of Georgia's wild rivers. Paddlers enjoy campsites with restrooms and showers, catered meals, educational programs—and not a few water battles. Cost: $680 with meals.
Paddle Oregon’s organizers, Willamette Riverkeepers, have taken all that's great about their river and river valley and rolled it into a five-day journey each August that is a feast for the senses. By day paddlers get an eyeful, experiencing the braided beauty of the Willamette, and by night they get to enjoy the fruits of the fertile valley, as the group often camps at riverside vineyards and farms where local wine and beer is produced. Throw in catered dinners featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine (think smoked salmon) and the culinary tour almost overshadows the on-river tour—almost. Cost: $699 with meals (beer and wine is extra)
Schuylkill River Sojourn
The Schuylkill River Heritage Area that organizes this 112-mile, seven-day sojourn each June calls this Pennsylvania waterway the River of Revolution. It passes through the heart of the American Revolution with a stop at Valley Forge and a grand finish in the cradle of American independence–Philadelphia. Daily paddles average 16 miles and include stops for educational programs on natural and cultural history at lunch and dinner. Catered meals, on-river campsites, flatwater with a dash of rapids, and loads of camaraderie among 100 daily participants make this an epic journey through the American epoch. Cost: $595 with meals.
Delaware River Sojourn
The granddaddy of long-distance group paddle trips, this 8-day adventure on the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi is now in its 21st year. During the journey, a series of day trips take paddlers from whitewater in the river's upper reaches to tidal water near Philadelphia. Hopscotching through Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey in vehicles, participants take advantage of group camping, shuttles to and from launch sites, catered meals and educational programs. It's no wonder organizers call it "the ultimate staycation." Paddlers can do all eight days or choose their favorite sections. Cost: $640 with meals.
French Broad Float
There's a reason the Vanderbilt family chose the banks of the French Broad River in North Carolina for their 250-room Biltmore Estate—the Appalachian Mountains are simply beautiful. This natural and man-made beauty keep the French Broad Riverkeeper's 5-day, 70-mile trip each June in high demand. The trip features primitive camping at canoe-in-only sites where each evening event sponsor Oskar Blues Brewery waits with cold beer. Of course, a wine tasting at the famed estate is included as well. The trip is small and intimate—just like the river. Organizers cap participation at 25 people. Cost: $400 with meals…and beer.
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