A Young Paddler’s List of Favorite River Runs in North America

Over the last 4 years, I have been traveling almost fulltime with my family of 14 in our RV. We’ve had such a fun time going to so many awesome places all over the country and into Canada. I’ve been to so many cool places from the Ottawa River to the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, GA all the way to the Colorado River and up into Egmont, British Columbia to surf Skookumchuk Narrows.
Since I’m a Cadet, 12, I thought other younger paddlers would like to hear my favorite rivers to run and play spots to surf, so I wrote this list of my favorite rivers on the continent to paddle. I’ll start in order from my absolute favorite first!

Tellico River
This is my favorite river run ever. It has ledges, auto boofs, and really fun rapids, like Diaper Wiper and a 15’ waterfall into a pool that can be run over and over. I ran this for the first time around 650 CFS and it was perfect. I’ve run it a few more times probably at the same level. I know that when it goes over 1000 cfs it can get crazy, especially the top drop on the run. My mom swam here her first time down it and ran the rest totally clean. The only hazard at normal, good flows, is the undercut rock at the bottom of Jared’s Knee. Definitely my favorite river run in my JK SideKick.
Ottawa River
The Ottawa River is super fun too and is full of great play spots, from really fun surf waves and holes to huge swirlies, it is my favorite river to run in my JK Shooting Star. There are also some fun spots to pull your kayak up onto boulders and seal launch. The water is really warm too, so I go Skin to the Wind. We haven’t been to the Ottawa River in two years because camping is either super expensive or super hard. But, I really hope we go back next summer!

This is my Colorado home Class IV river run that is just so fun at all levels in any boat. But when the levels get above 10,000 cfs it’s insane. In a playboat, it’s crazy at these levels. I ran it for the first time at 11,000 after Team Trials, in my JK Shooting Star with a ton of my JK teammates, like Claire O’Hara, Stephen Wright, Clay Wright and, my dad, my brothers, Grady and Brody, Kenny and Dally and my sister, Kady. It was huge. I got sucked into Marty’s Diner, a huge hole, lost my paddle and had the hardest swim ever to get to the side. I was a tiny bit scared, but then I wanted to run it again the next day. Shoshone is fun at any level and it has guaranteed water all year. We even run it with a bunch of friends who all get together on New Year’s Day. It’s usually freezing, ice is on the river and we all have icicles all over our gear. It’s cool.

Short Creek
Short Creek wasn’t always in my top 5 of fun rivers to run. Mostly because I ran it for the first time when Nickelodeon came out to film my family and it didn’t go to well. It was me, my dad, Grady, Brody, Kady, Kenny, Dally and our good friend and JK paddler, Jeremy Adkins. The water was high and I had the worst run ever. First I hit my tooth with my paddle and chipped it, it didn’t really hurt, but still. Then I swam 3 times, on this one day! Once, I flipped and Grady tried to flip me back over, but I dropped my paddle and went down the wrong side of a slide, backwards. I hit the bottom, flipped and didn’t have a handroll then, so I bailed. My dad followed me down, but it was really rocky and he got flipped at the top and ran it all the way down, upside down. We have this video on YouTube, I’ll find it and put it in here. But after this day, I was determined to go back with my JK SideKick and run it clean and I did. Now with no chipped teeth and no swims, it’s a really really fun river.ocoee
Definitely the Ocoee gets on my top 5. I like the Ocoee because it’s a river you can run really easy and take all the sneaks or you can push yourself and run harder lines. it’s also great with a creek boat or a playboat or a fun river runner. I like to take my JK Shooting Star to play. Whenever Grady and I run this river together, he makes me run the harder lines, which is good because I’m not sure I would if he wasn’t there. Tablesaw is my most fun rapid. The only problem with the Ocoee is the rafts. Kenny was slammed by a raft when sitting in an eddy near Broken Nose, Brody was run over in Broken Nose and I was actually totally run over by a raft near the top of TableSaw. I had a really hard time reaching my skirt because I was on the bottom of the river. That was probably the scariest thing that’s happened to me on a river. But, now I’m really careful of the rafts and don’t go near them at all. Hell Hole is fun, but so hard, to surf too!

Cardy Kellogg

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