When it comes to travel info, folks trust Fodor’s. Over the years, the international travel-guide business established by world traveler Eugene Fodor in 1949 has evolved into the world’s largest publisher of English-language travel and tourism information.
So when the Fodor’s Travel website recently posted “America’s 10 Best River Towns,” my interest was immediately piqued. How could Bend not be included? Even the feature’s author, Jayme Moye, seemed to be speaking specifically about Bend in her introduction: “Maybe it’s the towns’ proximity to the mountains, like beacons beckoning adventure, or the fact that river town residents live there by choice, not chance, having made quality of life, scenic beauty, and active outdoor pursuits like kayaking and whitewater rafting a priority. Then again, it could be the beer—microbreweries tend to open up near rivers, which provide a plentiful source of pristine water for making handcrafted brews.”
So, no surprise, as I read further, I did find Bend on the list (it’s No. 4, although I don’t think the list was arranged in any particular order).
In the blurb about Bend, Moye describes the town as “a destination that’s become synonymous with adventure. Rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, hiking, and even skiing at nearby Mount Bachelor are all in play in Bend, but it’s still a river town at heart. World-renowned fly-fishing and easy access to notable rapids like ‘First Street’ originally put Bend on the map, and the river remains its biggest attraction.”
Two other towns in the Pacific Northwest also cracked the Top 10. Leavenworth, Wash., and Talkeetna, Alaska: Fodors’ labeled Leavenworth as “the most unique river town in America,” with good reason: The town, which sits at the confluence of the Icicle and Wenatchee rivers, is modeled after a Bavarian village (even McDonald’s and Safeway feature the gingerbread-style architecture typically found in mountain villages of the Alps). Talkeetna was touted for its authentic frontier vibe (it’s a National Historic Site with iconic landmarks like the Talkeetna Roadhouse and Nagley’s General Store that really haven’t changed much since the early 1900s).
Here are the other towns that made the list and why, according to Fodor’s:
- Missoula, Mont.: It features world-class fly-fishing, ample whitewater rafting, hiking and biking, plus a “progressive college-town mentality complete with a farmers market, a thriving arts and culture scene, a fierce sense of environmental stewardship and a half-dozen local craft breweries.”
- Boise, Idaho: The Boise Parks & Recreation Department maintains a 25-mile biking and walking path along the Boise River that links 850 acres of parks and natural areas in the heart of the city.
- Kernville, Calif.: A particularly scenic spot nestled in a valley of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Kernville packs a fun Wild West flair and is legendary for its voluminous whitewater (100 miles’ worth).
- Salida, Colo.: It’s home to Colorado’s oldest whitewater-rafting company, along with the nation’s oldest whitewater festival.
- Tallulah Falls, Ga.: This lesser-known river destination boasts a big water scene — thanks to a series of six waterfalls that drop the Tallulah River 500 feet in one mile. Scheduled seasonal whitewater releases create Class V+ rapids that draw the region’s best kayakers and whitewater rafters.
- Asheville, N.C.: The hipster of America’s best river towns, Asheville evokes an active, outdoorsy vibe that permeates everything. Here you’ll find the highest number of craft breweries per capita in the nation (18), plus three acclaimed rivers on which to play.
- Fayetteville, W. Va.: The base camp for both the Gauley River and the New River Gorge, it features more than 100 paddling, fishing, climbing and cycling outfitters. Every September, a series of controlled dam releases turns the Gauley into a world-class whitewater destination.