After a big winter across most of the country, reservoirs are full, snowpacks are deep and rivers are starting to rush.
It’s boating season, so here are some of the best rivers to run during runoff, including a couple you can paddle only when reservoirs are spilling.
Dolores River, Colorado
Colorado’s Dolores River, also called the River of Sorrows, was one of the best whitewater stretches in the county before the McPhee Dam was built in the ’80s. The dam stopped the river, and now the Dolores runs only when the reservoir behind the dam is full, which is rare. But this year, because of inflow, it’s running all spring. Get it while you can.
Dead River, Maine
Maine’s Dead River, which holds the most continuous whitewater in the state (and arguably in all of New England) is released only eight times a year. The spring releases — three in May and two in June — are some of the best, because they come with guaranteed flows. The last rapid on the river, Poplar Falls, is one of the biggest in the East.
Yampa River, Colorado
The Yampa, which runs into Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado, is the last major free-flowing tributary of the Colorado River. It’s beautiful and wild, and it runs only in the spring, when snow is melting. It’s hard to get a permit, because the season is so short and the canyon is so beautiful, but a few commercial companies run trips in the area.
Deschutes River, Oregon
By this time of the year, most of the Pacific Northwest is inundated and ready for some sunshine. PNWers can head east to the Deschutes for some rays and splashy waves. There are several different paddle-able sections, all of which have different levels of whitewater, so you can take your pick.
Salt River, Arizona
Arizona’s Salt River, which runs March through May, has Class III and IV rapids in a remote desert canyon. If you can take your eyes off the whitewater, there’s a huge variety of wildlife, vegetation and birds that depend on the spring runoff.