The Best Locations For River Photography

Rivers are some of the best subjects that photographers can take pictures of. Not only are they abundant in many parts of the world (with a few desert-shaped exceptions), but they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, too.

The Best Locations For River Photography

From the shallow, calming flow of a small estuary, to the truly titanic churning waters of the biggest river systems in the world, that span across countries and continents, shaping the landscape around them.

No wonder people love rendering so much, whether it’s with a paintbrush and canvas, or a tripod and camera!

Of course, to get started, or to find inspiration for the kinds of rivers that you want to take pictures of, you need to know where they can be found, whether they’re across the world, or in your back garden.

Well, while you probably don’t need much help with that last option, we can certainly help out with that first idea!

From the Columbia River to the African Nile, we’ll show you not only the best rivers in the world to take pictures of but some of the best places along their path where you can snapshot. there’s plenty of ground to cover here, so let’s get started!

1. Multnomah Falls, Columbia River, Oregon

Starting us off with one of our favorite river photo opportunities on the West Coast of the United States.

(Get ready to see a lot of great river photo spots from Oregon. This nature-loving state appears more than a few times in our guide!)

The Columbia River runs through a good chunk of the state of Oregon, meaning that there are many places to grab amazing pictures from.

For our money, one of the best is at Multnomah Falls, arguably the most famous waterfall in the state.

Here, nestled in amongst the West Coast temperate rainforests that dot this national park, the growing mouth of the river leads into a truly spectacular waterfall (see also “How To Use Long Exposure To Create Stunning River Photos“), which then continues to plot and cut a course through this green temperate wilderness.

If you’re planning on taking a picture of the Columbia River at this point, remember that the time of day and weather conditions will have a major impact on the overall look and vibe of a good picture.

There’s no wrong way to take a photo here, only the kind of aesthetic that you’re aiming for.

A clear sunset or sunrise can bask the river and falls in a warm orange glow, while a foggy or overcast day can create a mystical, almost surreal feeling to the river here.

Plus, you’re welcome to follow the river as it cuts through the landscape to find the perfect spot!

2. Salt River, Arizona

Many people often tend to think of Arizona as that one hot state that has just deserts and the Grand Canyon in it (like that’s not still one of the coolest places on Earth).

And sure, Arizona is pretty famously known for being arid, especially when compared to the North West and East.

Still, that doesn’t mean that you won’t find pockets of natural greenery and beauty here. So long as there is a river running through it, there will always be pockets of green and photo opportunities to be had.

The Salt River is a perfect example of that. Located just off from the 202 highway, the river has cut a path through Arizona, creating a varied landscape that has pretty much everything that you could be looking for in photo ops, from rocky terrain to verdant greenery in the background.

Don’t worry, there are still a few desert areas that the river cuts through too if you’re looking for a high-contrast desert landscape background and the river in the foreground!

There are tons of spots to pick from, such as Coon’s Bluff, Phon D. Sutton, and plenty of other recreation areas that are great for tons of activities besides just photography.

The only thing that we would mention or advise is that the path down from the freeway and parking space (which does have a fee) is a little bit of a trek.

And, of course, make sure you’ve got a light level and time of day in mind so that you know how much you need to prepare in advance.

3. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Back up north we go for our next entry, back in the temperate wilderness of Oregon.

We’ve already mentioned the Columbia River in the last entry in Oregon that we mentioned. But with a river network that stretches over 258,000 square miles and 2 countries, there’s going to be more than just one place to get a good scope of one of the most notable rivers in Eastern North America.

For this entry, we’re taking a closer look at the gorge that this river has carved out between both Oregon and Washington state.

Located just a short drive from Portland, Oregon, this truly impressive canyon has tall cliffs that overlook the seemingly calm waters that slowly drift out toward the Pacific, creating a tranquil space when pictured and photographed.

There are plenty of elevated zones slightly away from the shores of the river, giving you a great opportunity for a gorgeous vista landscape photograph.

Alternatively, getting close to the shoreline, with the water in the foreground, and those cliffs in the background, is another great visual that we would recommend.

And, of course, a sunset caught on this water will always look incredible on camera, no matter what distance you’re at!

4. Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Moving away from the temperate and chilly North East, we now move back to the hot and arid South West, with a river that feeds into perhaps the most impressive natural wonder that everyone has heard of.

The Grand Canyon is fed by many waterways, but the Colorado River is the most famous one that most people will have heard of before.

Forming first in the Rocky Mountains, then cutting through Arizona in the form of the Grand Canyon, then finishing in Mexico, there are so many spots to try and grab an incredible picture from.

For us, while the view from the top of the Grand Canyon down into the valley is incredible, we’re

5. Brúarfoss Waterfalls & River, Iceland

We’ve covered a lot of rivers so far, with pretty much all of them being based in the United States or North America.

Well, time to change that, with our next entry!

Iceland is packed with almost too many natural and geological features, it seems. Volcanoes, waterfalls, mountains, and fjords.

And, of course, rivers!

For us, the Brúarfoss are some of the most amazing water systems in the country, or the world, for that matter.

It doesn’t feel like a traditional river, or even a waterfall network, for that matter. It’s an amazing blend of these two geological features, which is unlike pretty much anywhere else on this list.

Plus, it’s not too far from Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, so you won’t have to spend too long getting to and/or from there as well. Perfect for capturing golden sunrises and sunsets.

(Then again, neither is anywhere else on this small island nation!)

6. Drachenfel, Rhine River, Germany

While we tend to think of Europe, and its many countries, as being pleasantly green places full of old-world natural beauty, many people sometimes struggle to come up with more than a few natural features that stand out. There’s no Niagara Falls or River Nile of Europe, is there?

Well, that’s not quite true. At least, for that last example of rivers. Because there is an iconic river network that runs across much of Central and Eastern Europe.

Known as the Rhine, it has been a cornerstone feature of many natural beauty spots across countries like Germany, Holland, and France, and should be on your list of the best locations to take pictures!

While a river as huge as this will have countless spots for amazing pictures, we have a particular love for the final place on our list, Drachenfel Hill.

From this vantage point, you will be able to get a truly amazing view of this particular corner of the Rhine, as it spread out past Petersburg.

We would only recommend that you prepare yourself for a long hike beforehand. It’s a well-traveled path, but still a pretty long one all the same!

Final Notes

So, as you can see, there is no shortage of great spots to try out when it comes to finding rivers to use as photographic (see also: How To Photograph Rivers And Streams?)subjects.

Hopefully, what you’ve started to understand while reading this list, is that pretty much any river can become an incredible picture.

So long as you have the right position, the right composition, great lighting, and good equipment, there’s no limit to what you can turn into an amazing photograph.

Of course, these rivers are truly something else, and we would recommend any photography professional or enthusiast to try and reach them at least once.

But just because you don’t have a giant river that spans 3 states, doesn’t mean that you can’t make gold from the most humble stream by your home.

Laura McNeill
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