4 Can’t Miss Fall Foliage Paddle Tours

Autumn is the perfect time of year for a paddle outing. Not only are water ways less busy, leaves are also changing colors. Like a slow sunset taking place over several weeks in the treetops, seeing the leaves change colors while paddling on crisp and calm fall water is a can’t miss kayaking or paddleboarding experience. Here are a few choice spots we recommend you check out… 

Androscoggin River, Maine

In 2015, during their source to sea expedition tracing 190 miles of the Androscoggin River, Danielle Katz and Matt Palmariello wrote that this section was like paddling through an impressionist painting while the fall colors were peaking. Look into yearly paddle events on the Androscoggin River like Androscoggin Land Trust’s Fall Foliage Paddle at Riverlands State Park. Untamed Maine and it’s listing for the River Canoe Trail has maps and itineraries, as does the Androscoggin River Watershed Council

Additional routes to explore: 

  • Gulf Island Pond, along the shore of the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park.
  • Hanover boat launch to Rumford boat launch (nine and a half mile scenic paddle).

Missisquoi River, Vermont

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a network of waterways that crisscross New England and according to Only in Your State, the section running through Vermont is particularly spectacular in autumn for leaf peeping. The paddle trail, not just limited to canoes, follows the forest and farmland in northwestern Vermont along the Missisquoi River. The section is just north of East Berkshire, a five-mile paddle from Richford (the Quebec border-town) to Doe campsite. The trail is lined with Maples famous for turning intense shades of red, gold and yellow.

Additional routes to explore: 

  • Highgate Falls to Swanton (four mile scenic paddle).
  • Island Pond Village to the Clyde River - a short out-and-back between two mountain peaks.  

Raquette River and Stony Creek, New York

Crossing a river, creek and oxbows, visitors say Raquette River and Stony Creek is a can’t miss trip on a paddlers fall foliage tour. The water moves slow, making it easy to snap pictures and there isn’t much in the way of hazards - so all your attention can go to witnessing the gorgeous colors of deciduous leaves turning a rainbow of fall colors.

Upper Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon 

The east coast isn’t the only region that can boast busting fall colors. Bend, the headquarters and home to Aquaglide, showcases a riverside Aspen grove growing out of a lava flow along the Upper Deschutes River. It ignites in solar yellows every fall. Access from forest road 41 at the Slough or Dillon Falls put-in. Paddle up-river until the rapids won’t allow. Keep your eyes peeled on the Aspen stand river right.

Pro tip: A note of caution

Keep the good times flowing on fall paddle outings by dressing for success and paddling mid day, when the atmospheric temperature is the highest. Although splash tops and splash pants will protect your outers from getting wet while paddling, if you were to capsize or otherwise submerge yourself, those layers wouldn't protect as well while in the water. Consider a wet suit or ideally a dry suit, which are meant for submersion. Dressing for submersion potential is always best when paddling in cooler months because the water temperature is often far colder than in summer months. No matter what outer layers you choose - pick base layers that insulate even when wet, such as synthetics - never cotton.

Happy leaf peeping!  

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