In order to rank the top river towns in America, the editors of Outside Magazine turned to locals, asking for them to vote for their towns and provide travel tips to potential visitors. The resulting list, which contains some unexpected nominees and a surprising winner, shows the amazing diversity of communities built around waterways.
The specific criteria the towns were judged on? Cost of living, cultural vibrancy, job prospects, environmental stewardship and access to the outdoors. And these towns delivered. The common theme wound up being an engaged local population -- in some case a very small, very engaged local population -- with a love for nature and the civic projects to prove it. Greenways, trail systems and even urban swimming holes stood out as the features that make these river towns great.
Outside isn't the only publication that makes endless lists of the best towns in America based on specific criteria. Travel + Leisure has delved into the best cities for singles and hipsters, as well as the cities with the worst-dressed populations (sorry, Anchorage). Sherman'sTravel.com has checked out the best cities for biking, and Smithsonian Magazine has pulled together a poll to list the best small towns in America.
Do you agree or disagree with the choices below? Leave it in comments.
10. Ithaca, New York
Ithaca is famous for being the home of <a href="http://www.cornell.edu/" target="_hplink">Cornell University</a>, the inconvenient Ivy, but it is also boasts Cascadilla Creek, a lovely wandering waterway that empties into a vast, swimmer-friendly lake.
9. Hood River, Oregon
Hood River is a tiny town, but the Columbia River Gorge is a huge destination for adventure travelers. Every year people flock here to learn how to kiteboard and bro out.
8. Asheville, North Carolina
Nature lovers arrive in Asheville on their way to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but they sometimes get distracted by the charms of the French Broad River.
7. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee has used its three rivers -- the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnikinnick -- to become an innovation center for water-based technologies. A trail running beside the waterways is perfect for biking.
6. Nashville, Tennessee
In 2010, the Cumberland River <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/03/cumberland-river-flooding_n_561129.html" target="_hplink">all but attacked Nashville</a>, but on most days the waterway is peaceful and inviting to paddlers.
5. Missoula, Montana
Missoula is the intellectual and cultural heart of Montana. Thanks to the Blackfoot, Rock Creek and Bitterroot rivers it is also an ideal destination for rafters, kayakers and fly-fishers.
4. Durango, Colorado
The Animas River runs parallel to the main street of this outdoorsmen's paradise. Travelers flock here for the bike trails, but the rapids are just as fun.
3. Boise, Idaho
A 26-mile parkway runs parallel to the Boise River and through the downtown. Nearby, travelers find biking and hiking trails as well as an amphitheater.
2. Nevada City, California
An impressive 2,539 people voted for tiny Nevada City, a small town on the fringe of <a href="http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/tahoe/" target="_hplink">Tahoe National Forest</a>. That's 83 percent of the population.
1. Richmond, Virginia
The <a href="http://jamesriverpark.org/" target="_hplink"> James River Park System</a> has brought new life to Richmond, offering bike trails, paddling opportunities and enough green space for any outdoorsman. There is also 42nd street island, a popular hangout with swimmers, and smooth rocks for sunbathers. All this fresh air is enough to make Richmond a draw for active southerners looking for a weekend getaway.