Most Beautiful California Rivers

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California rivers offer many excellent options for whitewater enthusiasts.
California rivers offer many excellent options for whitewater enthusiasts.

California contains a diverse variety of rivers, from the numerous streams and creeks of the Sierra Nevadas to the larger rivers in the central part of the state. It is possible to find beautiful rivers in every portion of the state. California boasts excellent fishing and whitewater, and has numerous rivers that are easily accessible in addition to those that require some effort to reach.

  1. Northern California

    • Due to higher relative rain and snowfall rates, the northernmost portion of California is blessed with excellent rivers for fishing, camping, rafting and general recreation. The old-growth redwood forests around Humboldt county provide provide stunningly beautiful landscapes, with several notable river drainages, including the Eel, Klamath and Trinity rivers. Lying just south of the Oregon state line, the picturesque Smith River is a premier spot for steelhead and salmon fishing.

    Sierra Nevadas

    • Countless smaller rivers flow through the Sierra Nevadas, gaining forces as they reach the foothills. Near Lake Tahoe, the Truckee is a beautiful, accessible mountain river that has excellent spots for fishing, rafting or simply enjoying flat water areas and beaches. To the west, in the foothills, snowmelt has carved out the Feather River Canyon, which is located near Quincy. The Feather River can be appreciated during a scenic drive or by walking one of the several river trails. The Feather also has some excellent whitewater sections.

    Yosemite and the Merced River

    • Yosemite is the most famous and visited national park in California. The Merced River flows from the Sierra Nevadas, through Yosemite, and onward into the San Joaquin River. Visitors to Yosemite can view the 2,425 foot Yosemite Falls from the banks of the Merced. The Merced River offers some of the best rafting and kayaking in California, including many sections of class III and IV whitewater. The Merced is also a popular fly-fishing river.

    Kern River

    • The Kern River flows through the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley. Draining the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, it passes through Sequoia National Park and several national forest and wilderness areas. It is a popular river for camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking and fishing. The Kern is the ancestral home of the California Golden Trout, a sub-species of rainbow trout known to be an excellent game fish.

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