Cool Water World

Experience wildlife, natural beauty, and a good soaking with our guide to the best spots for water sports.

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Best Sailing

 Best Canoeing 
Minnesota's Boundary Waters With more than 1,000 crystal-clear glaciated lakes to explore, Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the place to get your oars wet. Although you'll find a variety of guided and unguided tours for all ages and abilities, Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters gives you the best of both worlds with its Rustic/Plush Combo Vacation. Bruce and Sue Kerfoot are the fourth generation to provide these canoe adventures, and they'll help you choose your route, plan and pack your food, and gather all the gear you'll need for three days of paddling, camping, and communing with nature. When you've had your fill of roughing it, return to your modern cabin, where you can take a steamy sauna and prop your feet up in front of the fireplace. Though no motorized or mechanical equipment is allowed inside the wilderness area, the peacefulness may be broken by a moose or two foraging down by the lake. Details: 800-328-3325 or www.gunflintoutfitters.com/rustic_plush; $1,195 (adults), $495 (children).

 Best Fly Fishing 
Snake River, Idaho Here's your opportunity to fly-fish in one of the most revered trout waters in the country: the South Fork of Idaho's fabled Snake River, which runs just west of the Teton Range, across the state line in Wyoming. Blessed with large water volume and rich nutrients, the pristine waters of the South Forkabound with big, healthy rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout; plan for a good catch regardless of your skill level. That is, if you're not distracted by the impressive mountain views or the moose, bears, otters, mountain goats, and bald eagles that nest here. And for guides who are unsurpassed in the fly-fishing profession, book an overnight trip with World Cast Anglers. A two-day float takes you through the 26-mile stretch of Snake River Canyon, past remarkable scenery and abundant wild- life. Roomy tents are furnished with cots, sleeping bags, and linens. All food and beverages, Orvis fishing equipment, and camping gear are provided. Details: 307-733-6934 or www.worldcastanglers.com; $950 per boat (two people maximum).

 Best Snorkeling 
Crystal River Area, Florida Think of snorkeling, and you're likely to picture coral reefs. But for a truly unfor- gettable snorkeling experience, head west from Orlan- do until you reach the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, Florida, where natural springs keep the fresh water a comfortable 72 degrees all year round. There, you may find yourself swimming with manatees (which you're allowed to touch with one hand if they come up to you first). The choice location is King Springs, which boasts the area's highest manatee population. Running a close second is Three Sisters, a triad of shallow springs that's popular with tourists for its sparkling clear water. Make a day of it: Visit Three Sisters or King Springs in the morning, then head over to Rainbow River, a lush location filled with wildlife and more species of fish than you can count. The experienced guides at Birds Underwater can take you out for a memorable experience. Details: 352-563-2763 or www.birdsunderwater.com; $44.50 per person (includes snorkeling gear).

 Best Rafting 
Colorado and Arkansas Rivers, Colorado Ready to brave the rapids? Head for the upper Colorado River, a prime spot for beginners to learn the rafting ropes. These relatively mild waters are unlikely to overwhelm, letting you catch a glimpse of the bighorn sheep and elk that call this area home. Don't miss the Pumphouse, a peaceful canyon on the Colorado featuring an on-the-river hot spring and a spectacular view of the awe-inspiring Rockies. If you've got some rafting experience under your belt, head south on the Colorado to the Shoshone Rapids, or opt for a trip through the canyons and gorges on the popular Arkansas River. For a hair-raising experience, watch the ponderosa pine and Douglas fir whiz by as you tackle Browns Canyon on the Arkansas, a white-water paradise filled with twists and turns for rafters of all abilities. Not sure what you can handle? Let Brad Crimmins, founder of Rio Expeditions in Arvada, Colorado, and an 18-year rafting guide veteran, suggest the ideal route. Details: 800-291-2080 or www.rioexpeditions.com; trips from $42 to $99.

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