Take me to the river.
For my first twenty-one years of life, I did not live in a river town—the result of a decision, on my parents’ part, that now seems almost criminally negligent. Now that I’ve lived in a river town for a few years, it’s hard to go back to being landlocked. No cooling breezes during the summer. No easily accessible beaches to walk your dog and dip your toes. No bridges on which to stand and watch sailboats pass underneath.
Blackfoot River, Montana
Perhaps river towns aren’t the vital transportation hubs that they used to be. Trains and planes have taken the place of the river barge and steamship. But they are still uniquely enchanting places, where a complex and fragile riverside ecology provides limitless recreational opportunities, that in turn fuel a bustling local economy.
Boise River, Idaho
American River, California
That’s why Outside magazine has partnered with American Rivers, the nation’s leading river-conservation organization, to launch the “Best River Town” contest. American Rivers helped Outside magazine select towns on the basis of three criteria: Whether the town met quality-of-life standards; whether the town used its river recreationally; and, most importantly, whether or not the town has taken action to preserve its waterway.
Animas River, Colorado
“It’s important for us to celebrate good news and success stories, since so often we’re sounding the alarm about threats. We hope this contest draws attention to the value of healthy rivers in our lives, and the value of rivers to our economy, health, and quality of life. We hope it inspires people to get out and enjoy a river, wherever they live.” said Amy Kober, a spokesperson for American Rivers.
Taughannock Creek, Ithaca, New York
Milwaukee River, Wisconsin
After evaluating river towns all over the country, Outside and American Rivers narrowed the list to ten towns: Hood River, Oregon; Nevada City, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Boise, Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Durango, Colorado; Ithaca, New York and Richmond, Virginia. After coming up with the finalists, Outside called upon the public to make the final decision.
James River, Virginia
To participate in the contest, which is sponsored by Good N’ Natural, sign into your Facebook account and visit Outside’s Facebook page. You vote by clicking the link of your favorite town. A panel of Outside editors will select the winner, both by counting the number of votes and by judging the creative content of the pictures, videos and comments on the Facebook page.
Cumberland River, Tennessee
The winning town will be on the cover of Outside’s October 2012 issue. And every voter in the contest will have a chance to win a five-day trip to one of the top ten towns. The contest will remain open through July 10, 2012.
If, in the meantime, you’d like to take direct action towards helping preserve America’s rivers, Kober has some other suggestions. Following American Rivers on Facebook or Twitter is a great way to track the projects that they’re working on, either the various political campaigns—for example, cutting water infrastructure spending in the upcoming House Interior Appropriations Bill, or local river restoration campaigns. Otherwise, Kober adds, “Summer is a great time to organize a river cleanup!”
French Broad River, North Carolina
Top image: Hood River, Oregon