Choosing a boat and route

New to the activity.

How to pick a boat based upon a local river? I don’t really know where to turn to get the information I need.

I recently bought a cabin near the North Fork of the Shenandoah (Close to Broadway VA). I know broadly that the river is classified as a navigable river and so has open access. The challenge is that I can’t find that much information about the river and am trying to figure out the appropriate boat to buy in order to traverse it. (it is ideal because it is close to home, and would make a nice weekend activity without driving all over the place).

Here’s something I found on this site about it.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. That is actually the post I read which made me post here. That location is way North of me so I am hoping to start a little further south on the river .

Below, have another great resource, but it it is a little hard for me to interpret. I can get in the river a few miles south of point “I”. But that area is not discussed and I don’t really know how to get info beyond this or how someone with experience might solve the problem.

Worst Case Scenario I can leave form Point M, but it mentions riffle and some class 1&2 rapids.
I have been considering a Pelican Sit-on-Top Kayak - Sentinel 100X - 9.5 Feet - Lightweight one Person Kayak

Not entirely sure how to interpret whether this would be appropriate. I would prefer a sit on top because I think it will be more enjoyable for me on some of the longer placid areas of river, but not sure if it would be an appropriate for a class 2 or the stream that comes before. Any thoughts?

Sorry if I am being ridiculous here. I just have an entry point a few miles from my house and it would be a shame for it to turn out navigable but I get the wrong boat because I am stupid and don’t know what I am doing. Its not a creek where I am, but neither a true river, I can see it gets shallow at points.

Shenandoah River Outfitters, near you in Luray, might be your best source for river conditions along the stretch by you. Though they mainly rent boats and run booked trips, usually that sort of outfitter will also offer shuttle service (for a modest fee) for those with their own boats so that you can paddle downstream and then get a ride back if you can coordinate with their group trips.


Thank you for the recommendation that is super helpful!


Willow didn’t specifically say it but you need to rent and get some advice from the trip guides before you buy any boat.
For instance, I think a 9.5’ boat is a joke , probably because I’m 2/3 as long as it is and weigh 220 lbs.


Thanks! This has been my inclination. Just rent or borrow a better boat and see how bad it is. Definitely working on the Trip Guide side of things. Not trying to get a boat hung-up in shallow water and have to hike it out. I am about 6’2, 200 so not that far off you.

I not looking for anything special to begin with. I know I will go nuts at some point if I get into it, but need some inexpensive boats to go with the cabin rental anyway. Thanks again for the help. You have been great. I contacted Shenandoah River Co and they referred me on to Murry’s fly shop…which I think us a good idea…so progress.

At your/our size that pool toy you looked at is guaranteed to have you walking in shallow, rocky water.
Have you considered a canoe? I have paddled in places where the kayakers got grounded but my canoe floated right over. You need enough wetted surface area under you to spread the weight.
I no longer have a canoe but have learned where I can’t go.
Good luck and have fun. It’s a great search!
PS: My WS Pungo 140 is a great shallow water boat.


If there are outfitters that rent boats or run trips on the section of river that is near you, ask them. See what their guides use and talk to them. Another option is to hang out for a few hours near one of the put ins and ask people there what they like about the boats that they have and what they would get in the future.

Most boaters and outfitters love to talk about their boats.


Thanks man so helpful. Love your boat looks perfect. I will definitely have that on my radar.


There are many similar boats . The max length on a new Pungo that would fit you is 12.5’ now.

American Whitewater lists the North Fork as class I - III: Riverside Church (Route 921) to Shenandoah Caverns (Route 730))

Not a lot of other information other than a 10 year old trip report.

Rt 820 to the confluence with the Little Dry River is a great little run! Ran at 4.3ft. Only hazards are 2 concrete fords (portage), low bridge (fine today, but will be trouble at 6ft), one 2/3 river wide strainer (sneak on right), and a massive river wide strainer pile extravaganza (obvious portage). All visible from a distance. I’d advise against taking a complete beginner due to the small size of the eddies above hazards. An advanced beginner or intermediate paddler would be fine. Approx. 8 miles.

The 6 mile run from the Rt. 42 bridge in Timberville to the Rt. 617 bridge near New Market is a great section to introduce beginner/intermediate paddlers to slightly pushier water (with an emphasis on slightly). The run takes about 2 hours in a white water kayak, I’m sure a canoe would shorten that quite a bit. About 1.5 miles upstream from the 617 bridge, there is a decent sized Class III rapid followed by a small wave train. I guess it’d be called “Serpent Castle” rapid because a hand painted rock sign that reads “Serpent Castle” is displayed on the large 8 foot tall rock formation on river right just before the rapid (this area also makes a great scout/portage for those a little nervous about it running it). You’ll know the rapid is just ahead when the river makes a sharp bend to the left and the rock formation comes into view. A word of caution for those who chose to surf: there is a rock just under the surface in the wave after the main drop. If you get flipped in the left side of the rapid (facing upstream), odds are pretty good you’ll get pushed right against it. Overall, not a bad little day trip, recommend this one for sure.


Wow this is awsome. Thank you so much. THank you so much.


not sure if this is still relevant but i was looking for same info you were looking for and saw your post! we just ran timberville to new market section at high water yesterday and had a blast. we’re experienced kayakers in whitewater and inflatable kayaks. some rapids were scouted as we’ve never kayaked this section before, it was big waves and some were cl 3+ rapids. to our surprise there was even a river wide rapid with no sneak line! we plan to paddle this section again so just holler if you want to come along in normal flow. we paddle year-round.

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Hi EvanMarks,
If you are new to paddling do not start with this river.
Do not kayak a run like this without reading water experience, manuevering and a bomb proof roll.
Scout all rapids.
A canoe is safer.