Five for Friday: National Rivers Month

To celebrate the conclusion of National Rivers Month, we profile our country’s five National Rivers in our weekly Five for Friday series.
National Rivers are preservation areas, managed by the National Park Service, intended to “preserve ribbons of land bordering free-flowing streams which have not been dammed, channelized, or otherwise altered. Besides preserving rivers in their natural state, these areas provide opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, and hunting.” Our five National Rivers are all located east of the Rocky Mountains.  These valuable conservation areas are enjoyed by thousands every year.
The Buffalo is a prime example of an untamed continent.  It remains one of the few undammed rivers in the lower 48, and as a result, was designated the country’s first National River in 1972.  Shortly thereafter, it was designated wilderness, in 1978.  Its 135 miles are a prime attraction for canoeists, who enjoy days and night hidden among the rivers steep bluffs.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Davis, MyShot.

West Virginia
Located just a few hours from the nation’s capital, the New River Gorge is rich with history and culture.  As one of the only north-flowing rivers in the country, it has carved deep canyons for over 70,000 years resulting from its rugged white water.  In the mid-1970s, one of the largest arch bridges in the country was built to cross it.  Today, it remains a recreational mecca for rafting and countless other activities, including Bridge Day.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Smith, MyShot.
Kentucky and Tennessee
A fork of the Cumberland River, Big South Fork was first designated a National River in the mid-1970s, to preserve a pristine river in one of the most heavily dammed regions in the country.  Within its land, cultural and historical significance are preserved in the community of 
Blue Heron, an important mining town in Kentucky from 1937 to 1962, now rendered a ghost town.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Puryear, MyShot.


The most urban of our National Rivers, the Mississippi National River and Recreation protects 72 miles of our nation’s most famed river through partnerships with local landowners to preserve the river for future generations.  Various recreational activities can be enjoyed, from its St. Paul and Minneapolis view shed to its tranquil paddling waters further upstream.
Photo courtesy of Ken Friberg, MyShot.
The only NPS area to protect a river system, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways protects the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, spanning 134 miles across the state of Missouri.  Canoeing is extremely popular on the river, with over 1.3 million visitors participating in said activity yearly.  The nearby Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River was one of the eight original wild and scenic rivers designated by Congress.
Photo courtesy of Mary McClain, MyShot.
National Rivers are wonderful places to explore, recreate, and educate.  Visit NG Education’s River of the Americas for instructional tools, multimedia, and a wealth of information about rivers, and their value in our society.  The National Park Service also offers great information on their work in river conservation, and how everyday citizens can get involved in the effort.
For a comprehensive overview of National Park Service lands and jurisdictions (many of which include rivers and waterways), visit The National Parks: Index 2009-2011 or explore park listings by designation.
— Justin Fisch for National Geographic Education

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