Paddling suggestions for Va.

-- Last Updated: Apr-12-10 5:29 AM EST --

OK, my wife and I are making the "big move". We have decided to retire early amd relocate from the CT. shoreline to Charlottesville, Va. Having lived in CT all my life I am excited and nervous about the move. We hike, bike and paddle for our main activities. My question is: Where are there good places to paddle our kayaks (flat water- nothing more than riffles maybe class one) The kayaks are thermo-formed and do not do well with rocks. We will miss paddling the CT River and the many salt marshes but are looking forward to explore new areas.

Upper James River…
The Upper James River is pretty tame, the stretch from Iron Gate to Eagle Rock is pastoral, no more than some class 1 riffles. I think it is around 17 miles or so…

The Shenandoah River is also nice, pretty tame from Front Royal to the Route 9 bridge near Charlestown, West Virginia.

I used to live near Winchester, Va., and paddled a lot of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. The Potomac from Cumberland, Maryland to Shepardstown, WV is worth doing on several day trips. Gets a little rough for beginners south of Shepardstown, Harpers Ferry and Brunswick, Md. Guess it can’t be too rough though, Harpers Ferry outfitters put a lot of people on the water during the weekends…

northern virginia
I don’t know the Charlottesville area itself, but here are some suggestions for when you’re willing to drive a little:

Paw Paw Bends section of the Potomac River, ending at Hancock, Maryland, where there used to be an outfitter who would do your shuttle. Camping trip, easy paddling, scenic part of the river.

There are several good places to paddle on the Potomac near (or in) Washington, D.C.

The Mattaponi River, and its tributaries, the Matta, the Po, and the Ni.

Many places on the Rappahannock below Fredericksburg. Mild tidal current.

I agree that the Shenandoah can be nice, but it can also be quite fouled by the cattle on the banks. I didn’t like it in the summer.


I live just south of C’ville. Albemarle County has a few pretty good size lakes including Beaver Creek Reservoir and Walnut Creek both with great wildlife viewing: beaver, otters, osprey, the occasional bald eagle and pretty good fishing. These lakes are within 20 minutes of Downtown C’ville. PM me and we can talk.

Joe Fallon

I’ve paddled the entire tidal James, Chicahominy, and York, along with the entire lengths of the Mattaponi and Pamumkey. All these are around Richmond which is 75 miles from Charlottesville. The fall line follows Rt. 95 pretty closely. Everything east is tidal. The advantage of Charlottesvile is that you are closer to the mountains. Shenandoah National Park is premier hiking and it is only 30 minutes from Charlottesville. Plan to do more driving to paddle tidal rivers, but the drive is fast and easy - very little traffic to get to RIchmond with the exception of rush hour in the morning. The traffic in Richmond and Charlottesville is nothing like up north.


Rivanna is in your backyard
No matter where you end up in Charlottesville, the Rivanna is not far away. Mostly riffles, with a few class 1 rapids. My wife’s thermoformed boat has made many trips with nary a scratch. It is a state scenic river and a real gem.

Complete flatwater in the general area include Rivanna Reservoir, Beaver Creek, Chris Greene, Ivy Creek, Walnut Creek. These creeks are all dammed. Lake Anna is only 45 minutes away and offers thousands of acres of flatwater paddling.

Good advice about tidal paddling east of the fall line; tons of options.

Drop me a message for more details.

Thank you
I appreciate the feedback and I will be taking you up on your offer for more information via email. My wife and I are looking forward to our move.

I moved to No Va
Manassas from Maine last June—the paddling here is not a good as maine but its not bad and the climate is milder—my favorite place is Mason’s neck state park on Belmont Bay where the Potomac starts to get very wide—

Hey Jon
we’re in the same area, I’m just down the road from you in Dale City – I was out at Mason Neck yesterday on what was a PERFECT day to paddle… caught the tide at the right time for Kanes Creek, the bird life was out in droves and we even got a closeup glimpse of a bald eagle tearing up something red and juicy :slight_smile:

Not many places compare to Maine, but there are a lot of great places to paddle around here! Haven’t paddled the southern half of the state so I can’t help the OP much, but I have a lot of suggestions for Northern VA.

Paw Paw to Little Orleans …

– Last Updated: Apr-13-10 9:37 AM EST –

...... try to check it out some time . There are some sections in there that are extra special !!

That stretch should be taken in 2 seperate days .

Bonds Landing on the Md. side is a remote camp and ramp (run by Bill's Place) , it's more than half way down river from Paw Paw . Bill's Place (Little Orleans on the river , Md. side) will take you either to Bonds Landing or Paw Paw .

Maybe try Bonds Landing back to Bill's Place for the first time (a nice day run) , then if you like it go again on up to Paw Paw next time .

5'-6' on the gauge is good level for peaceful float .

Va. paddlers’ group – check ‘em out

Yankee, you might look at this group’s web page. They are pretty active and seem to do nice trips. I’m in NC and I joined. Going to False Cape State Park for an overnighter soon.

There’s also a Chesapeake Bay paddlers’ group, but I don’t have that address.

NC has beautiful, beautiful paddling trails also. You’ll be happy in Charlottesville, I imagine – well-located for paddling!

G in NC

a nice local day out in Charlottsville

– Last Updated: Apr-13-10 10:26 AM EST –

....... (although non-paddling) , will be to spend a day over at Tom Jefferson's place (Monticello) and then go treat yourselves to dinner at Michie's Tavern right down the road .

You won't be disappointed !!

What part of Charlottsville area you planning on ??

Chesapeake Paddlers Assn links


Mitchie Tavern
We ate there last October then again in March. I never had better fried chicken than their’s. We will be in the Pantops area of Charlottesville. We almost bought a place in Crozet but we wanted to be closer to downtown C’Ville.

Thank you
I will join - best way to meet and make new friends while learning what the area has to offer.

a cozy place with a little ambiance …

– Last Updated: Apr-14-10 1:29 AM EST –

....... and right good eats , home cookin style , friendly atmosphere and everybody seems to be smilin there .

Try to check out Tom J's place oneday (5 mins, down the road) , it's kinda neat , and a leisurely stroll ... when the garden and flowers are in bloom I'd suggest .

If not mistaken , Pantops mountain is on the E.N.E side of the city just into the county side .

There's a reservoir just a few miles north of the city limits back up rt. 29 ... South Fork Rivanna River reservoir , right near Ivy Creek Natural Area . Know about it but haven't been on it .

Some beautiful hills (well , mountains really) along the road south (29) looking just west away from C-ville . You got 3 National Forest within a hop skip and a jump to discover soon , George Washington , Monogahela , and Jefferson ... and the Shenandoah National Park (Sky Line Drive runs thru it) .

You're also in real easy range of a Sky Line Drive entrance (just west of C-ville on 64), oh yeah !! .... the Sky Line will take you over to Front Royal also (but slowly) .

And then you got the Lurray Caverns out there ... you like big ol tour caves with stalagtites/mites and pretty colors ??

More ... you just run 64 west out of C-ville and make a right on 81 going north until you land in Front Royal area (1-1/2 hr. more or less drive I suspect) ... don't be missin the Shenandoah (South fork) for a sweet place to discover year after year .

Happy for ya ...

Charlottesville paddling group
Meets every Wed. or Thurs. during the summer months for after-work S. Rivanna Reservoir paddle and many in this group can show you to other water in the area.