Rivanna River, VA

Looking for advice on taking a 2- to 3-day paddling trip on the Rivanna, from Charlottesville to Columbia, or maybe further on down to Cartersville on the James, to round it out to 50+ miles.

Is there any place to park overnight near the Hwy. 29 put-in or the dam? Any recommended spots to primitive camp along the way? If I needed a shuttle, are there any outfitters that run trips on this river?

Thanks in advance!

Google Earth shows a Sams Club and
a Walmart relatively near the 29 bridge. Walmart is fairly tolerant of long-term parking, and there are enough people around that your car might be safe.

Haven’t moused down river yet. Can’t answer your other questions. Watch the weather changes if you can’t wait until spring.

There are a few pull offs on Rt 643 (Rio Mills Rd) just below the dam near the put-in that I would feel comfortable leaving a car overnight.

I’ve never camped on the Rivanna, but there should be plenty of isolated spots to do so. There are 2 officially designated camping spots between Crofton and Palmyra near the Broken Island area.

If you don’t have it yet, the Rivanna Conservation Society has a Rivanna river map that shows these locations as well as other river info. It’s available through their web site or places such as Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. Would be a good resource for your trip. BRMS has also sponsored a multi-day trip on the Rivanna, and could probably provide more info.

At one time, James River Runners near Scottsville would help with trips on the Rivanna, but don’t think they do that now. Depending on when you go, drop me a line, and I’ll see if I can help.

See if you can access the
American Whitewater pages at the following link. Select and copy the entire link.


I moused on down to the James. Every few miles there is a rapid. They all appear to be class 2 except for one, most of the way to the James, that is probably class 3. (It looks like a dam may have broken out there.) Didn’t see sandbars for camping, but I think you will find spots to climb up the bank.


– Last Updated: Jan-16-11 10:32 PM EST –

..... I know the area in general but no experience about paddling the Rivanna .

Have a couple ideas though , maybe they're worth something . Check out where rt.15 (James Madison Hwy.) crosses the Rivanna ... might be able to hang out there at the old Timberlake griss mill site for the night (maybe try to contact CMCarrol to see what he knows about the mill site) , check out the river gage there (seems friendly to me)


or maybe try to contact these guys ... (leibseay) , he's got photos from "point of fork" (Rivanna/James) ,


and it looks like these guys (Forester2) have run some of the James near there , maybe they can put you onto something (follow back their photos and it looks like they put in right across the James from the Rivanna's mouth (and they look like island campers too) .


also I see a mighty fine looking island head that looks clear (just north of Palmyra and rt. 15 bridge) ... it's at two bends (S in river) about 1-1/2 mi. south east of Lake Monticello (opposite side of river (west/river right) across from this island has a few houses back aways on "Broken island Rd." ... there's a dirt field airport just down river at the next part of the S ... you see that island head ?? (looks a good possibility for an overnighter)

ps., ... you see that community around Lake Monticello (the whole slightly darker space on Google map) ... don't even think about hanging around the shore that touches that community (darker space) , it's a gated community , been in there a few times visiting people... but the S bend and island I mentioned downriver are clear of it .

looked for the RCS map the other day
but they don’t seem to sell it on their website anymore?

Thanks, but
I’ve already researched it on AWW, virginiarivers.org, Google Earth, Grove’s and Corbett’s books, etc… hoping to find some nuggets of knowledge from paddlers who know it firsthand. The Woolen Mills dam was removed in late '07

Pettit Island
Thanks for pointing that out – I came across a blog that described a trip on the Rivanna & James, apparently that island is a designated primitive camping spot. The channel on the backside of that island shows promise to find a hidden spot to camp. (I’d much rather do that than be anywhere near the lake development.) Another designated spot is after the S-bend on river right.

Found some interesting pics & vid of a batteau on the Rivanna & James:


if you have a mind to …
… you could give a call to the Fluvanna county Sherrif’s office to see what they think about using that island or the TimberLake mill site for an overnighter associated with your float … or maybe any other things you might want to ask them regarding thier take on things relating to river float trips .

The sherrif’s office is right there … about 3 mi. down from that island (1500’ inshore river right) … it’s about a mi. N. of rt.15 on 53 (turn up 53 just past rt.15 bridge) .

I’d imagine if anyone had any complaints about an overnight camp group along the river around there , they’d be the office getting the call (??) .

Send me a PM
with your phone# and I will give you a call to discuss. I paddle the Rivanna frequently and have done a trip starting at Crofton to Richmond (and beyond), so can give you ideas.

The RCS maps are available at the Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in C’ville if you are in the area.