I've been reading from A Boy's Town by W. D. Howells ©1890. In this story he's recounting the days of his youth, the games he played, the things he and his friends did to occupy their time and the innocence of youth with the belief that the world totally revolved around themselves. It's a great read and I would encourage you to read over it if you're interested in writing during 1840's, and setting a story by a river.
Below is a brief description of the river the author writes in his story "A Boy's Town" for Harpers Young People
But the spring, short as it was, had its great attractions, and chief of these was the freshnet which it brought to the river. They would hear somehow that the river was rising, and then the boys, who had never connected its rise with the rains they must have been having, would all go down to its banks and watch the swelling waters. These would be yellow and thick and the boiling current would have smooth, oily eddies, where pieces of drift would whirl round and round, and then escape and slip down the stream. There were saw-logs and whole trees with their branching tops, lengths of fence and hen-coops and pig-pens; once there was a stable; and if the flood continued, there began to come swollen bodies of horses and cattle. This must have meant serious loss to the people living on the river-bottoms above, but the boys counted it all gain. They cheered the objects as they floated by, and they were breathless with the excitement of seeing the men who caught fence-rails and cord-wood, and even saw-logs, with iron prongs at the points of long poles, as they stood on some jutting point of the shore and stretched far out over the flood. The boys exulted in the turbid spread of the stream, which filled its low western banks and stole over their tops, and washed into all the hollow places along its shores, and shone among the trunks of the sycamores on Delorac's Island, which was almost of geographical importance of The Island in Old River.