Family Vacations, Summer 1996
Jaw-Dropper: Even old canoe hands express amazement at finding such clear water and white sand in New England.
Digression: About 21 miles downstream from Center Conway, a mile-long channel leads to Lovewell Pond, where paddlers are rewarded with views of Mount Washington and other peaks in New Hampshire's Presidential Range.
The Saco in a nutshell: Put In/Take Out: Center Conway, New Hampshire/Hiram, Maine. Length: 43 miles; three days. Prime Time: May and June; the water gets low in July. Traffic: Heavy on summer weekends. Rapids: One short section of Class I. Portages: An optional 20-yard end run around the remains of a wooden dam at Walker's Falls, and a mandatory 300-yard portage around the minihydro dam at Swan's Falls. Facilities: Four commercial campgrounds (just the basics) and two campgrounds operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club; camping permitted on unposted sandbars from the Maine state line to Hiram. Outfitters: Saco Bound (603-447-2177), Canal Bridge Canoes (207-935-2605), Saco River Canoe & Kayak (207-935-2369), River Run (207-452-2500), and Woodland Acres Camp 'n Canoe (207-935-2529). Information: Appalachian Mountain Club (603-466-2721).
PEACE RIVER, FLORIDA
Anglers land bass, bream, and catfish from the tea-colored water. Watch for herons, red-shouldered hawks, and snowy cattle egrets. You'll also tally otters, turtles, and deer.
Jaw-Dropper: A 15-foot, knobbly-backed log on the riverbank suddenly rises and jumps into the river with a tremendous splash: an alligator. Though a fair number of them patrol the Peace, no paddler has ever been attacked.
Digression: About ten miles downstream from the Fort Meade Bridge, take a half-mile woodland walk along Paynes Creek to a state historic site where five Seminoles killed a pair of traders in 1849. Kids get a kick out of guides in period dress, a six-pound cannon, and a 100-foot suspension footbridge over the creek.
The Peace in a nutshell: Put In/Take Out: The state-designated Peace River Canoe Trail runs south, from the Fort Meade Bridge to the State Road 70 Bridge, west of Arcadia. Length: 67 miles, four or five days. Prime Time: Late May, early June; July and August are buggy and hot. Traffic: Crowded on spring weekends; quieter during the summer. Rapids/Portages: None. Facilities: Two commercial campgrounds; wilderness camping along most of the canoe trail. Outfitters: Canoe Outpost (941-494-1215); Canoe Safari (941-494-7865). Information: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails (904-487-4784).
NIOBRARA RIVER, NEBRASKA
Lots of families tie inner tubes behind their canoes and let the kids freeload. A Niobrara tube isn't a standard-issue butt-wetter; it's a gigantic tractor-tire inner tube with a canvas deck. Rocky Ford, site of a natural rock dam, tends to bang up canoes-but the three-foot drop is perfect for tubing runs.
Jaw-Dropper: Okay, maybe only an eyebrow-archer, but more than 93 waterfalls spill into the Niobrara on this stretch, and some 30 are visible from the river in midsummer. To amuse the kids, turn cataract-counting into a competitive sport.
Digression: About 12 miles downstream from Cornell Bridge, in Smith Falls State Park, a quarter-mile creekside trail heads up-canyon through sun-dappled stands of birch and pine to Smith Falls-at 67 feet, the highest in Nebraska.
The Niobrara in a nutshell: Put In/Take Out: Cornell Bridge, four miles east of Valentine in the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge/ Egelhoff's Narrows. Length: 30 miles; two days. Prime Time: Anytime except July; it's a scorcher. Traffic: Fairly heavy on summer weekends. Rapids/ Portages: Rocky Ford (Class II), Kuhre's Rapids (Class III). Facilities: Nine commercial campgrounds and one public campground (Smith Falls State Park). Outfitters: Dryland Aquatics (800-337-3119 or 402-376-3119), Brewers Canoers (402-376-2046), and Graham Canoe Outfitters (402-376-3708). Information: Niobrara/Missouri National Scenic Riverways (402-336-3970); Valentine Chamber of Commerce (402-376-2969).
GREEN RIVER, UTAH
The key to enjoying the Lower Green: Don't rush it. Budget plenty of time for serendipity and exploration. The paddle from the put-in to Ruby Ranch takes in parched high-desert plains. Below the ranch, just after the San Rafael enters from the west, high sandstone walls that rise hundreds of feet form the phantasmagorical gorge of Labyrinth Canyon.
Jaw-Dropper: Just below Mineral Bottom, the Green snakes through Stillwater Canyon. Sheer riverside walls tower 400 feet; the rim, stepped back in terraces, is another 1,500 feet higher.
Digression: A mile-long trail at Spanish Bottom gains 1,500 feet to reach the Doll House, a cluster of stone towers and other odd formations.
The Green in a nutshell: Put In/Take Out: Crystal Geyser/ Spanish Bottom. Length: 120 miles; five to seven days. Prime Time: MidMay to mid-June; temperatures are 100-plus in July and August. Traffic: Light. Rapids: None. Portages: None. Facilities: Wilderness camping along the Lower Green; permits for wilderness camping required in Canyonlands. Outfitters: Tex's Riverways (801-259-5101); Tag-A-Long Expeditions (801-259-8946). Information: Canyonlands National Park (801-259-7164); Utah's Canyonlands Region (800-635-6622 or 801-259-8825).
One novice six-day in-and-out route starts at Mowat Landing, off Highway 58. Paddle southwest, portage around Mattawapika Dam, then continue on Lady Evelyn River into Lady Evelyn Lake. Next, head through Obasiga Narrows, then west into Sucker Gut Lake. From there, paddle north into Hobart Lake and follow Willow Island Creek, then Tupper Creek, finally ending up in Tupper Lake.
Digression: A three-mile trail from Tupper Lake climbs Maple Mountain, which rises more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding lakeland. From a summit fire tower, 25-mile views extend in all directions.
The Temagami in a nutshell: Put In/Take Out: Mowat Landing. Length: About 48 miles; six days. Prime Time: Anytime except early June, when the bugs are fiercest. Traffic: Moderate on lakes with road access; light elsewhere. Portages: Two. Facilities: Campsites
are plentiful along the whole route. Outfitters: Smoothwater (705-569-3539). Information: Ontario Recreational Canoeing Association (416-426-7170).
Copyright 1996, Outside magazine