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Shenandoah National park

Rented a house on the Shenandoah river.It is my 1st visit to this area and am looking for tips/advice on fishing and kayaking the river and any surrounding lakes or reseviors. Thanks!


  • what section?
    this website has descriptions and put-ins/takeouts for several day trips:

    water level is decent right now, if the Front Royal gauge is 1.4 ft or better then scrapiness is minimum in most spots; hopefully some rain this weekend to top it off
  • Shenandoah Nat. Park ....
    -- Last Updated: Jul-05-13 9:50 PM EST --

    ..... the Shenandoah river isn't in the park .

    Then there is the North Fork and the South Fork , and then the main branch Shenandoah river .

    The North Fork and the South Fork come together in Front Royal , and from Front Royal on down you are in the main branch Shenandoah river .

    Not too far down river out of Front Royal there is a dam ... you would have to portage this one to go further down river .

    Not far down river from the dam , next comes Morgans Ford . Morgans Ford is a good put in for a down river trip of 2-3 days .

    You can go as far as Rt.9 out of Charles Town . Beyond there comes a steep fall out to a deep section that soon ends at Milville dam .

    Below Milville dam you go through benign waters again until you come to Bull Falls and the Staircase . This section is WW , and it goes on down to Harpers Ferry where the Shenandoah ends as it runs into the Potomac river . I've never been on the Shen. from Milville down , but have been there many many times .

    What type of paddling experience did you have in mind ?? A day on the river or multiple days and camp .

    You should be aware of the river level whatever day(s) you are on the Shenadoah . What the USGS river gages are reading is what you need to know . All sections of the Shenadoah are capable of being dangerous to deadly during high water periods , it rises fast and drains down just as fast . Otherwise under normal flow it's nice easy river to paddle down .

    It's been a long time since I've been out there paddling and wading in the Shenadoah , but I know her to a fair degree .

    Depending on what you want to do on the Shenandoah , there are some here who know certain sections with more recent experience .

    As for fishing , Smallmouth Bass , Bluegill , nice size river Cats , Walleye . All but the Walleye will be easy targets for you .

    There's a low head dam almost to the end of the North Fork where it merges into the South Fork at Front Royal ... Do Not go near that dam either from above or below it ... it doesn't look like much but people die there , it's dangerous .

    As for Shenandoah Nat. Park , it runs from Front Royal S.W. to Waynesboro (which is west of Charlottsville on Rt.64 . It's something like 100 miles give or take a few . There are 4 entrances . Front Royal on one end , Waynesboro on the other end , and 2 in the middle . Skyline Drive goes through it . Skyline Drive is an improved mountain type road with ups and downs and sharper bends , very scenic , not a fast road (cyclers cruise it too , awsome down hills) , and as the nane implies , it rides the skyline . There are some caverns if you like those . Skyline caverns near Front Royal , Lurray caverns (near the mid point of Skyline Drive) , Shenandoah caverns also . I think there's only one place in the park to get gasoline now . Pres. Herbert Hoover's place is in the park and open to public for tours . There's a nice resturant in the park on Skyline Drive .

    Where are you staying (town) , how much time you got to check things out ??

    just found this link for you to check out ... http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/driving-skyline-drive.htm

  • I was thinking of you sapien ...
  • Shenandoah river
    The house is between the towns of Shenandoah and Stanley. Thanks for the link.
  • Shenandoah river
    Wow! Thanks for the detailed info. Having never visited This area before I would like to be as prepared as possible. I am only there for 5 days. Plan on lots of hiking,kayaking and fishing. The house is between the towns of Shenandoah and Stanley. I know that water levels vary and am hoping that September brings sufficient,but not dangerous,waters. Rainfall has been insane here in Jersey.Keeping tabs on weather in the Luray area. I will check out the info you've provided.Thanks again.
  • the low-head dam
    -- Last Updated: Jul-07-13 8:32 PM EST --

    in Riverton at the end of the North Fork was removed a couple years ago... I've paddled thru there and can attest to its absence :) they neglected to remove the scary warning sign though

  • hiking suggestion
    if you'd like a challenging hike with rock scrambles and great ridgetop views, I suggest Duncan Knob and Strickler Knob accessible from Crisman Hollow Rd off 211. They can be hiked together as a loop -- get a real early start to beat the heat! look them up on hikingupward.com
  • Hiking
    Thanks Sapien. Def love a good rock scramble. I'm hoping in September the crowds will diminish and nature will be all mine..heehee. What entrance to Skyline drive would be the nearest to the town of Stanley? I have done some research,but always appreciate a 1st hand opinion.
  • Skyline
    -- Last Updated: Jul-06-13 1:59 PM EST --

    There is an entrance to Skyline Drive off Hwy. 211, Thornton Gap just east of Luray, convenient to where you'll be staying. There are many fantastic hiking loops in the SNP and it'll be hard to choose just one. Keep in mind that if you start from Skyline Dr, you're hiking down off the mountain and then back up, which many folks are not prepared for. Carry good maps and plenty of water too, there are some springs, but you have to know where they are, and generally not easy to access off the A.T.

    Some of my favorite hikes (so far) starting from Skyline are the Camp Hoover (aka "the Brown House") loop, Jeremy's Run, and Doyles River.

    There are some hiking routes available that are up first then back down. The classic one is Old Rag Mountain -- about an 8-mile loop, with the top mile being all rock scramble, with breathtaking views of the Rapidan/Rappahannock valley. Not far from Stanley, but you have to drive across the mountain and around the other side, so probably about an hour. DON'T go there on a weekend, too popular and too many people blocking up the choke points on the rock scramble. Also near there is White Oak Canyon, a steep waterfall hike in a cool hollow, great to see after a good rain. There is a stunning overlook of the biggest falls that is worth the effort. If you're motivated you can climb all the way to the source of the Robinson River, near some interesting rock formations, and the Limberlost Trail which leads up to Skyline. Another up-and-back hike is Hawksbill Mountain, the highest point in the SNP at 4050 ft. Carefully research proper directions to the trailheads, Google Maps may steer you down restricted mountain roads.

    The Duncan Knob/Strickler Knob hikes I mentioned are not in the SNP; they're on the Massanutten Mountain side, just west of Luray. It's possible to hike/climb both knobs by linking them together via the west side of the mountain and not going down into the hollow as shown on the map, which makes for a shorter hike, although there's a nice stream and campsites down there.

    HikingUpward.com has a nice interactive map that will help you find what routes are nearby, and you can print out basic maps.

    If you're there later in September, you may catch the trees changing colors at the higher elevations. :)

  • another trip resource
    here is a listing of public access points on the South Fork Shen and day-trip options, with some fishing tips to boot:

    if you need an outfitter for shuttle service and/or boat rentals, you have a few in that area (listed from south to north):

    Massanutten River Adventures, McGaheysville

    Shenandoah River Adventures, Shenandoah

    Shenandoah River Outfitters, Luray

    Downriver Canoe Company, Bentonville

    Front Royal Canoe, Front Royal

    Be aware of the three power dams near Shenandoah, Stanley and Luray in planning your trip; also the low-water bridges at Bixler's Ferry and Indian Hollow.
  • Awesome info!
    Sapien, do you come from this area of VA? You sure do know your way around! I appreciate all the help and links. Gonna put some serious time into my laptop and check out all these tips. Thanks to you both.
  • Pilotwingz....
    pilotwingz,I am an intermediate calm water paddler. Therefore,we will be launching from our backyard access and fishing and exploring. So..no multi-day trips or whitewater. also wouldn't mind loading the kayaks and checking out any notable lakes and reseviors in the region.
  • Northern Virginia
    I've lived in VA for 23 years and have spent a fair amount of time paddling, hiking and camping in the Shenandoah Valley. I have a detailed map I've developed of the Shenandoah Rivers in KML format showing access points, hazards, and points of interest, and your post reminded me that I have some more work to do on it. If you'd like I can provide it to you once I'm done. Heck, I might even be persuaded to drive down there and join you on a downriver float :)
  • Just a modest caution ...
    ... of the terrestrial kind, particularly if you have small children. Copperheads are common along the river, and timber rattlers are not uncommon on even some of the more popular park trails. If you go rock srambling, be sure you can see your handhold clearly before committing ...

  • can't say about lakes over there ...
    -- Last Updated: Jul-08-13 3:31 PM EST --

    ..... there's Frederick lake (about 100+ ac.) , 5 mi. N. of Front Royal , requires a daily permit or a Va. fish license . Never fished it .

    There's Lake Anna farther away from where you'll be ... haven't fished it either but a relative does every week ... it's a large reservoir , he does ok in a bass boat .

    All my time over there was fishing on the Shenandoah river , did it for 17 yrs. (2-3 x's/yr.) . Used to be able to hook up w/50 or so Smallmouth each day . Later Sept. was prime . Didn't need to cover much water distance to do it either , maybe a 1/2 mile or so when wading . On a full day down river run , the catch number would be about the same as wading a 1/4-1/2 mi. section . So if you find one that bites , stay where you are awhile and cover that area , others are there .

    Personally I liked the up river presentation ... then I could watch it float back past me and down river some , giving it a regular twitch here and there and about as much free float time ... 1/2 twitching , 1/2 floating !!

    My favorite lure was the 3-1/2" and 2-1/2" jointed (broken back) Rebel , Blue & Silver , it's a floater diver (a hard body plastic lure) ... doesn't float as high as a Rapala which is Balsa wood . Rapala did ok too , but the Rebel did better (always) .

    If I could only take 2 lures out on the Shen. , one would be the Rebel and the other the Rapala . As a matter of fact , most times I just went with 4 Rebels , spin reel w/6 lb. test . Too many break offs w/4 lb. and 8 lb. wasn't needed and didn't cast as far .

    That's my knowledge extent for the Shen. and Smallmouth ... the Rebel was the 1st lure I tried there and never found any reason to try anything else , cause it worked great ... got to love top water strikes all over the place !!

    The river Channel Cats can be a blast to catch in the evening (especially from shore) . Best way is catch some Bluegills , cut them up for fresh bait strips , toss out on a bottom rig set up , and wait for the scent to bring them in ... If you toss a carcas very close near the shore where you are fishing from (a foot of water) , that will bring everyone in the river to you (they go 6-8 lbs. and are good eating too) !! ... 6 lb. test on them is iffy but works if you use the drag , an extra spool w/10 lb. is better for them .

    The way I discovered the Bluegill bait technique was on a multiple day down river trip . I prefered to keep mostly Bluegills for dinner at camp . After cleaning them up for dinner , I tossed the carcasses in next to shore . While cooking the fish up (it was dark now) , there began this comotion down at the waters edge . We didn't know what it was at first , thought maybe an animal wrestling something in the water .

    Went to have a look and there were a mess of large Catfish wrestling each other for Bluegill carcasses . Literally lock jawed on them , 2 or 3 on the same carcass , rolling over and thrashing trying to get it from the other ones .

    Of course this called for a quick rig up to see what would happen . Had to litterally steal back a few chunks of the carcasses from the brawling Cats for bait . Tossed it out a reg. cast distance down stream into the scent line ... took 5 or 6 (one every cast) before the little bit of recovered bait was gone ... could have kept at it all eve. if the bait was more . (this was more fun than I can explain w/words) .

    Good luck

  • Great fishing info
    Now that's a 1st hand fishing review. Thanks pilotwingz.
  • Get to work on that map...
    ...haha. Will accept any and all guidance. Cant wait to explore the beauty of a region you call home. Good for you.
  • Def will heed the warning
    My boyfriend and I are avid hikers and we also love spotting snakes,reptiles,raptors and anything in their natural habitat. We hike our area of PA.,NJ, and up into New England and lament the fact that timber rattlesnakes are rarely seen and may be dwindling in these parts. It sure would be a treat to spot and observe either of these snakes. No kids tagging along,so that is not an issue. Thanks for the heads up! appreciate it.
  • thanks sapien
    We will be fully prepared,thanks to all the advice.
  • copperhead
    I have yet to see one in the wild, but I do occasionally see these common watersnakes, which might be mistaken for a copperhead at a glance:

    I hear there are a few timber rattlers up on the mountain ridges near Luray.
  • see Copperheads around these parts ....
    .... every now and then . Almost stepped on one once . It was coiled and ready to strike .

    Timber Rattlers are there in Va. in the Shenandoah , the Blue Ridge . They will be giving birth in Sept. and going to hibernation in early Oct. They'll be in the high grounds gathering to rock bluffs and dens , many in and around the same den .

    It's rare for me to see one because I'm not there , but it's a guarantee they are .

  • can rise quickly .........
    -- Last Updated: Jul-12-13 11:32 PM EST --

    ...... notice today July 12 ... the Shenandoah went from a very safe level to very dangerous level in 3 hours . That's optimum paddling green level ... to dangerously high red level .

    About 1'-8" to 5'-8" and rising on the Front Royal gage .

    Just wanted you to have these links for your future Sept. trip . This is just the kind of thing I had mentioned to you earlier ... can happen very fast there . From your back yard access , the river is even narrower where you'll be , the rise will be more extreme ... Front Royal gage is the only one you'll have , and it is just down river from you , there are no others up river from you ... and whatever Front Royal's reading , you can likely guess it's higher (relatively) up river where you'll be cause the water flows down hill .

    see "Shenadoah River Basin - 01631000 , SF Shenandoah River at Front Royal VA"




    ps., .. can't help myself , the Shenandoah brings back so many memories , got to tell a quick short story ... "we set out downriver on a beautiful Sept. day , tee shirt weather , bivacked a camp site and went to sleep content as one could be ... woke up the next morning to natures call and when I climbed out of the bag and stepped out of the tent I thought I had been time travel transported to the Artic , everything was frozen solid as a rock , and it was extremely cold ... moral to the story , temp. change in Sept. can happen just that fast , so be prepared for it just in case " .

    Also , check those water temps. cause I've seen it very comfortable water temps. in Sept. , and also teeth chatering cold water in Sept. . Who knows what this Sept. will be like for you ??

  • Pilotwingz,can never be.......
    ......too careful or over-prepared. Did ya'll get a lot of rain at once to cause such a rise? Here in Jersey,the torrential downpours have been frequent and intense! Very wet summer so far. We will definitely pay close attention to the water levels everyday and weather temps. Thanks!
  • 2 more USGS SF Shenandoah gages .....
    -- Last Updated: Jul-13-13 11:15 PM EST --

    ...... wasn't aware these existed above Front Royal but they do , so here they are .

    01628500 , Lynnwood


    01629500 , Luray


    wow , the Shen. really rose up ... what's neat is you see how it all makes it way down to Milville (dam) gage about 24-36 hrs. after Front Royal .

    Yes , lots of rain through the region last few days ... same here (MD) as you all , a pretty wet year so far , rather unusual . Another unusual thing is the 8 tornandos in MD over the past month .

  • Very interesting..
    Must admit,we have never been to the area and knew nothing about the Shenandoah. Thanks to friendly folks like you and sapien, learning a lot of useful,needed information. I sure am hoping for favorable, safe river conditions for our 5 days there. My boyfriend will be fishing sunrise and sunset everyday. Don't need him in a risky situation, for sure!
  • Shenandoah River Map
    Here is the map I've been working on in Google Earth format, showing access points, gauges, dams, significant rapids and a few other points of interest. Still a work in progress; combination of info I've collected over the past few years from paddling various sections, reading guidebooks and researching online. There are still plenty parts of the river I need to experience firsthand.

    Google Earth KMZ file (click the down arrow at top left to download):

    viewed in Google Maps:

    the KMZ file has the POI's organized by South Fork, North Fork, and main river, and they are in order from upstream to downstream.
  • lake in Luray
    I'm sure you've already come across this but the town of Luray has a recreational lake and beach, Lake Arrowhead. Small at just 39 acres but sure to offer an awesome view of the Blue Ridge mountains.

    Most "lakes" and reservoirs along the mountain ridges are little more than watering holes. You could drive over the mountain to Culpeper and check out Lake Pelham -- at 250+ acres it's probably the largest lake within an hour of where you'll be staying. I don't believe power boats are allowed there. Not certain if permits are required for canoes/kayaks; call the town office at 540-829-8220 and ask.
  • Good work!!!
    Very cool map.Love the photos. Thanks.
  • Checked out Lake Pelham
    Nice size reservoir.Good fishing. Permits are required,but if the Shenandoah is not "hospitable" during our visit,this is def an alternative. Thanks!
  • I'm sure everything is going to be .....
    -- Last Updated: Jul-15-13 10:26 PM EST --

    ..... a wonderful time for you two !!

    It would be nice if you would come back and tell us all a bit about your Shenandoah visit when you return .

    Glad sapien was able to offer some of his experience around there , he's a real explorer and gets around paddling alot . He once helped me solve an old mystery I encountered on the Shenandoah one year .

  • The least I can do is
    give ya'll a recap of our adventures! We had a delightful paddle yesterday on Lake Lenape in Mays Landing,NJ. We crossed the lake and went upstream on the Great Egg Harbor river for over 2 miles. Mike caught a large,fiesty pickerel that looked to be 6 lbs! Cant wait to explore the Shenandoah......
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