James River in April?

My wife and I will be driving down to Richmond in April and I had the idea of bringing canoes… What kind of water Temps might we be looking at?

No chance we are donning wet suits, so I am doubtful, but figured I would check.

April is cold water month. You should wear wet suits or not paddle away from shore.

What I was expecting. Thanks

Runs about 55-60°F in a typical year. Not something you want to swim in without thermal protection for immersion.

If you Google “canoe rentals Richmond” you’ll find several rental shops that look like they are already open. You could call one of them and ask what to expect. I’ve been to Richmond many times but never paddled the James. If I were you I’d bring my gear (including synthetic clothes and a dry bag) and either rent or bring a boat so you’re prepared…but it depends on what you and your wife are comfortable doing. It looks like right now the river is 5 times it’s normal volume (!) so personally I’d be looking for slow/wide/safe sections or just stay off.

As of 1/1/21 the Department of Wildlife Resources requires access permits to use the department owned boat ramps (Access Permit | Virginia DWR). The list of ramps requiring a permit is found here.
Boating Access Sites Requiring a Permit | Virginia DWR

Fast, cold water is the exact opposite of the paddling that I want to do with my wife. She is basically brand new to paddling and not very cold tolerant.

Looks like this trip won’t have any paddling, which isn’t really a problem as we will be house shopping and probably quite busy anyway

Richmond resident here.

YES, you can paddle the James in April. Its beautiful in the spring even if the water is sill cold. If you’re lucky you’ll get some warm sunny days to balance it out. Unless you are extremely cautious about getting wet, I think wetsuits in a canoe on the James in April would be overdoing it!

There are several sections of the upper James, for instance near Scottsville, that are class one rapids or below and easy to canoe paddle. And TONS of flatwater to paddle between Scottsville and Richmond

Within Richmond, anything below interstate 95 is big, wide flat water and can be paddled basically year round. The college crew teams practice just south of 95 in town. Ancarrows landing is a good put-in for this area.

Above 95 there are sections, especially downtown Richmond, that shouldn’t be run in a canoe period. West of town, everything above the Z Dam will be basically flat as well. There is a great free public canoe launch at Hugenot Flatwater that my wife go to for an easy paddle upstream. There is also a launch at Powhatan State Park a bit farther west that will require a state park entrance fee.

Check with Riverside Outfitters in Richmond, or James River Runners in Scottsville for more info and a river guide’s opinion for the forecast and water levels. They both also have tons of boats to rent.

Have fun!