During the glorious September and October fall foliage season, Blount Small Ship Adventures positions its 96-passenger Grand Caribe on 12-night cruises between Manhattan and Montreal. You travel from New York Harbor along the Hudson River to the Erie Canal — where, thanks to an unusual design feature, the ship's pilothouse lowers to clear the bridges. You pass Amsterdam, N.Y., on the banks of the Mohawk River, and cruise through the scenic Thousand Islands region. Crossing into Canada, there's time on the fascinating St. Lawrence Seaway, the gateway from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, with its locks, canals, channels and waterside communities. After a stop in Quebec City, you head north along the St. Lawrence River to a trip highlight: the beautiful Saguenay River, a tree-lined fjord cutting through what might be the oldest rocks in the world. If you're lucky, you'll spot the river's other big attraction: beluga and even blue whales. — Photo by Getty Images
River cruises provide a new perspective on Americana. They take you slowly through the inland waterways of upstate New York, along the Mississippi or on the course of Lewis and Clark. You take in the scenery, learn from onboard historians, sip wine and go explore on one of the ship's kayaks or bikes. The experience is sometimes intimate, often casual and always authentic. Here are five recommended river cruises on North American waters.