Northern portions of the New River are famous for white-knuckle rafting, but the North Carolina stretch is known for swift, easily paddled riffles and long, languid pools loaded with feisty smallmouth bass. A 26.5-mile section of the New holds State Scenic River status, passing through deep hardwood forests with pastoral views of old mountain farms and easy access for canoe campers. The New River State Park includes canoe access points and primitive, paddler-only campsites. Along the way, you’ll have to decide whether to dip a line in the innumerable ledge pools or drop trou for a quick summer swim.
guides:Hiking North Carolina, by Randy Johnson ($16).
contact: New River State Park, (336) 982-2587; www.ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/neri/home.html.
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
Pike the size of small children ply the cold waters of this giant park, a sprawling million-acre wilderness of exposed bedrock, virgin jack pine forest, and sphagnum bogs. There are more than 12,000 miles of canoe routes along chains of lakes and rivers, and little access other than by boat and floatplane. You’ll need hefty tackle to handle the huge Northerns–up to 4 feet long–and platter-size walleye. Novice paddlers should stick to the relatively tame Gammon River system, which stitches together medium-size lakes. Whitewater vets will want to ride the Bloodvein, which careens past ancient pictographs and some of the best wilderness walleye fishing in the world.
guides:The park offers a free map showing canoe routes, portage points, and access areas.
contact:Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, (807) 727-1329; www.ontarioparks.com/english/wood.html.
Most southern Appalachian trout streams are small creeks tumbling through thick rhododendron glades-the kind of water that requires expert casting skills. Not the Cranberry River, which drains a wide, forested valley in the rugged hills of West Virginia and the Cranberry Wilderness Area, one of the largest wildernesses east of the Mississippi River. There’s plenty of room to wade and cast for wild and stocked rainbow, brown, and brook trout along both forks of the Cranberry. Access is via an easy, near-level hike along a graded forest road, which means two things: You can pack the chest waders, and you can expect small crowds on summer weekends. Fortunately, numerous side trails lead to lonely campsites tucked into the hollows.
guides: USGS topo maps Hillsboro, Lobelia, Webster Springs SE, and Woodrow (888-ASK-USGS; www.backpacker.com/mapstore; $10)
contact: Monongahela National Forest, (304) 636-1800; www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf/.
Wind River Range
You’ve died and gone to fish heaven: Not only does this range boast 15 of Wyoming’s 16 highest peaks, more than two dozen active glaciers, and 400,000 acres of designated wilderness, but its huge battlements of fanglike rock lord over what many consider the finest backcountry trout fishing in the country. Thanks to an old-time guide named Finis Mitchell, who years ago carted trout to the Wind’s high country in milk cans strapped to pack horses, six species
of trout now thrive there: lake, golden, brook, rainbow, brown, and cutthroat. Hike from alpine lake to stream to lake and you could catch all six in a single day. Best bets include the Popo Agie and Fitzpatrick Wilderness Areas of the Shoshone National Forest.
guides: Walking the Winds: A Hiking and Fishing Guide to Wyoming’s Wind River Range, by Rebecca Woods ($15). Northern Wind River Range and Southern Wind River Range waterproof trail maps (Earthwalk Press; $8 each).
contact: Shoshone National Forest, (307) 527-6241; www.fs.fed.us/r2/