Buffalo National River, Ark.
The Buffalo National River (nps.gov/buff) was the first river in the United States to be protected by the park service, and with good reason. The 135-mile waterway is one of the few undammed rivers left in the Lower 48, winding its way through huge limestone cliffs cut from the Ozark Mountains and through shady forested stretches, some of the last untouched wilderness in the mid-south. It’s also home to one of the country’s best canoe float trips, with Class II riffles, some of the most diverse fishing in the country, and plenty of campsites along the way. Paddlers can opt for a one-day 7- to 10-mile trips, or 26-mile multi-day trips, like the stretch between Ponca to Pruitt, with stops for man and dog to gape at natural wonders like Big Bluff, a 550-foot sheer rock face, and Hemmed-In Hollow Waterfall. Canoe rentals with Buffalo Outdoor Center (buffaloriver.com) begin at $60 per day. Shuttle rates from Ponca range from $20 all the way up to $240 if you conquer the whole river.
When to Go: The water is usually floatable from March to July, but rain can shorten or extend the trip. Check river levels with an outfitter or the National Park Service before planning a trip.
Know This: Pups are fine on the sandbars and riverbanks, but the Buffalo winds through three sensitive wilderness areas that exclude dogs. Know where you are on the river and keep your dog in check or face fines.
Doggie Diner: The Boardwalk Café at the Arkansas House in Jasper, on the banks of the Little Buffalo, is a great spot to try an elk burger or wild razorback chop, two local specialties. thearkhouse.com
A golden retriever rides a raft with Colleen Mullins on the Middle Fork Salmon River. Photo: William Mullins/Idaho Stock Images
Plan B: The Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho
The Middle Fork is perhaps the ultimate float trip in the United States, with over 300 rated rapids including Class III and IV drops as it drops 3,000 feet in 110 miles through the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Experienced DIY rafters and their four-legged co-captains can set up a five- to six-day trip by renting gear from Riverwear (riverwear.com) in Stanley. Pups are more than welcome, just remember to bring a wilderness-grade doggie bag to pack out their tailings. River permits available from the Forest Service (fs.usda.gov).