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The water: Along that bump on the bottom of southwest Texas, the Rio Grande takes a sharp turn from southeast to northeast. For more than miles-all of it spectacular and often very remote-the river separates the desert of northern Mexico from Texas's Big Bend National Park, passing through the outstanding canyons of Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas. Below Boquillas, the river leaves the park and slips into the Lower Canyons, the most isolated section of the Rio Grande about another miles of paddling.

All along the river, you'll find limestone walls that reach as much as 1, feet above the water to the Chihuahuan Desert. Water levels vary greatly during the year, to the point where river travel is sometimes impossible, so call ahead. The hikes: About 10 river miles below the put-in at Lajitas, Texas, the Rio Grande enters Santa Elena Canyon with a good campsite located at the canyon's mouth. On the Mexican side, you can hike into a shady side canyon where you'll find a swimming hole, fern-cloaked walls, and an easy route to the top with grand views across Texas.

On the park side, a rugged trail at the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon ascends about 4 miles to more open country, excellent views, and a opportunity to spend a day or two exploring the desert off-trail bring an accurate map. You can spend 3 weeks on the river, hiking any of the side canyons, and only scratch the surface of this vast wilderness.

Season: Accessible all year, depending on water levels. Spring and fall are the most appealing seasons, weather-wise.

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Where you take out will depend on the length of your trip: it's about 2 days to Castolon, a week to Boquillas, a couple of weeks to La Linda. Sign up for a guided canoe, kayak, or raft trip with or rent boats and accessories from Big Bend River Tours, ; www. Numerous good primitive camping spots dot the riverbanks. By joining an outfitted trip, you'll also have the option to raft the 7-mile "experts-only" Section IV down to US Between cascading falls are quiet pools and sandbars where you can camp, swim, and fish for brown and rainbow trout and redeye Coosa bass.

The hikes: Right beside the river is one of the finest hikes in the Southeast-a mile one way trip on the Bartram and Chattooga River Trails. No matter the name, between green wooded bluffs and sculptured rock formations, the trail skirts the river's ledges, drops, and rapids. Jump out of the boat at just about any spot and you can hook up with the trails within a quarter mile of the river.

The remote and unspoiled Rock Gorge section, a bouldery, botanist's delight, teems with conifers and hardwoods, plus wildflowers and flowering shrubs such as violets, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Here you'll find wild turkeys, quail, raccoons, white-tailed deer, and even black bears. Season: If you're not used to Southern summers hot and humid, with the air often referred to as "thick" , opt for spring and fall.

Logistics: Take I north to US Parking is on the northwest side of the river at the Chattooga River Information Station. Experience level: Suitable craft include rafts, whitewater canoes, and kayaks. Boaters should possess intermediate to advanced skills. Boyd Fern Creek Press, ; www. The water: Its name means "deep within," and the Noatak does indeed flow from deep within Gates of the Arctic National Park in the heart of the western Brooks Range above the Arctic Circle.

Electra Run, Mokelumne River, kayaking class II, Aug 26, 2006

It's a clear, cold, shallow, winding river ringed near its headwaters by ice-castle peaks like 8,foot Mt. Igikpak, and on other sections by the immense, seemingly endless horizons of open tundra. Its length miles and its easy waters Classes I and II make it one of the premier wilderness rivers on the continent. Start at Portage Lake and you can float for 4 to 6 days down to Lake Matcharak 25 miles or 16 days to Noatak Village miles for a longer trip, with many options in between. The hike: Don't expect trail signs in this wilderness. Just tie off the canoe and hike in the tracks of grizzlies, wolves, caribou, even musk oxen.

The best hikes head for the high ridges away from the bugs or follow the solid ground up one of the major tributaries. Head up the east side of the Kugrak River and search for warm springs. For a more ambitious overnight hike, have half your party hike 12 miles up the Kugrak over a nameless pass into the Igning River valley and return to the Noatak to be picked up by the others, who meanwhile have drifted downstream in the boats. Experience level: Easy rapids; hikes require route-finding, map reading, moderate scrambling, and bear safety skills.

The season: Arctic summers are short.

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Ice-out may be as late as June; by September, snow is in the air. June and July are drier, but the mosquitoes are thicker. August is wet, with fewer bugs. Portage Lake makes a good landing spot for a float plane and put-in for a canoe. Canoes can be rented, but all craft must be flown in; Kleppers or other "break-down" boats make a good choice. For guide services or trip consultation, contact Arctic Treks ; www. The water: Paddle the long, peaceful stretches of the upper Colorado River and you'd swear you were on a whole different waterway than the one of Grand Canyon fame.

The 27 miles between Loma, Colorado, and West-water Ranger Station in Utah is a splendid float with a few small rapids that can be negotiated even by beginners. It has been my habit to replace the standard carabiner that comes with most tow tethers with a paddle biner, this allows you to rescue and ferry peoples paddles in difficult water without having to do the double paddle carry.

In this situation we put the 'biner on the end of a throwbag, tied the gate of the 'biner open with the string from a noseplug, and carefully, fished my paddle out from the slot.

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It was not easy, took probably 20 minutes, but worked. Just one more reason to have a paddle 'biner with you. Originally Posted by TakemetotheRiver.

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