Shenandoah overnighter

I know there are a few Shenandoah paddling fans here – anyone know if there’s a place to park overnight at the Lockes Mill landing near Berryville? any suggestions on where to camp in the vicinity of the Rt 50 bridge? planning to paddle from Morgans Ford to Lockes in a couple weeks.

I used to paddle that stretch weekly…

– Last Updated: May-22-10 11:54 AM EST –

I used to paddle that stretch of the Shenandoah at least weekly during the paddling season, and I can tell you there are few camping spots between Route 50 and Lockes Landing. There is one on a gravel bar, river right, less than a half mile from the put in at Route 50. There is another a couple miles downstream, river right, where the river divides to form an island (Burwell Island on your Viginia Gazetteer), there is a small camping spot where the current on the right rejoins the river. This little channel on the right around Burwell Island is only runnable when there river has a moderate water flow, not during low water.

Between there and Lockes Landing, there are few spots I can recommend to camp. There is some high ground, but most of it is posted and you are likely to be chased off.

There is a parking area at Lockes Landing, small, but I would be hesitant to leave a car there overnight, lots of partying at the public landings along the Shenandoah at this area.

Email me if you need more detailed info, or suggestions...

where is Lockes Mill Landing ??

– Last Updated: May-22-10 10:02 PM EST –

...... is it the Rt.7 bridge just east of Berrysville ??

Twice have left an auto parked way up under that bridge for a couple days . Once the kids must have had an abundance of Pumpkins and nothing better to do than stand on the bridge and try to hit the auto down there (if they wanted to , it is easy enough to just drive down under the bridge)... they missed (about a dozen times) , no other problems .

The stretech from Rt.50 to Rt.7 has more than it's share ledges and shallow rock gardens ... one nasty right after the other through a big swath of that stretch (canoe eaters) .

There's a very diagonal ledge (across the width of the river) in particular not far below Morgans that you will want to look at before trying to cross ... it will be still water right up to the ledge .

I like the stretch from Rt.7 (E.of Berrysville) to Rt.9 (E.of Charlestown) . There's a nasty drop out below Rt.9 bridge (don't think you should go into it -portage to right of island) , below this drop out on river right is a landing . Then after that drop out you'll soon come to Millville dam (get out river left - there's parking there too) .

We always just made camp along the river for the night ... no one ever bothered us . There's an island just below Rt.50 bridge also .

There's parking on the south side of Morgans Ford .

It's been years since I've been out there and things (such as signs and people may have changed ??) .

Lockes Mill Landing…
Lockes Mill Landing is a small boat ramp on river left about halfway between Route 50 and Route 7. After Lockes Landing, there is a large, rowdy RV park and campground that runs along the river for more than a mile, as I remmeber it is called Watermelon Park. The park puts a lot of tubers in the water during the summer, they float down to the Route 7 bridge.

I agree the section between Route 7 and Route 9 is a better choice for paddling. No noisy roads follow the river, fewer homes, less boat traffic, water even appears cleaner. There were several good camp sites as I remember, just can’t remember exactly where. Last time I paddled this section was in 2007.

I lived near this stretch of the river for three years, 2004-2007 in Boyce, Va. During that time there were several mysterious fish kills that killed every single fish in the river, from the North Fork of the Shenandoah above Front Royal all the way to the Route 7 bridge. During that time I was amazed and surprised at the number of surviving fish in the river between Route 7 and Route 9.

RE: Lockes & River Camping
I’ve parked vehicles overnight at 50, Lockes, Rte 7 & Rte 9 - and aside from the fact that those places seem to be a popular spot for some to sit & drink, I’ve never had any issues.

Aside from Watermelon Park AFTER Lockes, the only other place that comes to mind for camping is an island on River Left just after a large ledge, between 50 & Lockes- here’s the Google Maps link -,±77.8911196146419&safe=on&ie=UTF8&ll=39.089102,-77.969155&spn=0.010759,0.017939&t=h&z=16

somewhere along the way between …

– Last Updated: May-23-10 10:33 AM EST –

....... Rt.7 and Rt.9 (can't remember if it's after the long island split or before ??) , there is this one section that sticks out in my mind because of it's depth .

There was a house or two set way up far back from the river left , and they maintained the lawn down to the river ... the thing that always stands out in my mind is looking down into the water through there . It was a relatively short stretch .

The water had to be 20'-30' deep with massive boulders on the bottom ... the water was so clear I could see all the bottom and fish swiming down there , it just amazed me it was so beautiful .

As we cleared that section , I turned to look back and a deer was crossing in mid river just were it shallowed up again .

There are some big Walleye (schools of them) right in that long island split area . We had no problem catching (and releasing) 40-50 Smallies (each) per day . I wonder if I would be dishearted to go back and run the Shen. again in the future (probably hasn't changed much ??) . I've spent a fair amount of time on it from Strasburg/Front Royal down to Harpers , it's a very beautiful river everywhere I've been on it (it was my first and only river for 17 years) .

those two spots mentioned by Spray1, in particular the 2nd one at the end of the big island, are the ones I was eyeballing on Google Earth as potential campsites.

Watermelon Park told us we could park a car there for free :slight_smile: they offer shuttle service down to Rt. 50 but we can manage. guess we can buy some beer at their camp store in exchange for the hospitality.

I think the ledges in the rivers around here are fun :slight_smile: about how much of a drop is that diagonal one down from Morgans Ford?

any suggestion on what gauge to go by for this stretch? I guess it would have to be the one in Millville, or the Front Royal gauge on the South Fork.

7-9 trip
I have done the 7 bridge to 9 bridge trip a couple of times with leaving a car at both locations with no problems. The 9 bridge takeout spot is kind of difficult, as there is no real water access. You just have to hoof it over the river bank.

That stretch is real quiet, with only a few houses viewable from the river. Most of the property is private property though, so not sure where you would camp.

just upstream from Rt.9 bridge …

– Last Updated: May-26-10 4:26 PM EST –

...... about 2 miles , is a small park that you use to be able to leave autos overnight at , not sure if that's still allowed now or not ??

It might be called Shannondale Park , and you may be able to contact the state authority to ask about leaving autos there ... we never had any problems leaving autos before at this place or the other below Rt.9 bridge , but as I said it's been awhile .

They have since improved that little water front park with a small paved parking lot and a few other odds and ends but it's still very small though . Many used it as a launch site , others did wading and swimming from there . We stopped by there again last year but just can't remember (sorry) if it's gated now or not , or if it has any signs saying closed between certain hours ??

To get to that little park , you would go over the Shen. Rt. 9 bridge (heading away from Charlestown) , and proceed about a mile (a little more) , then turn right on Co.Rt.915 (Mission Rd.) ... keep on climbing the hill about a mile and a half or so , and look for the entrance on the right (Shannondale Springs Rd. or Riverside Drive I think) , it does have a Park sign there now , and just follow down to the river . The way down is much improved now , you use to have to almost 4 wheel your way down , ride through a stream (little bridge now) , and hope the landing and parking wasn't a mud hole .

When going down river by canoe you will go around Avon Bend (the last tight horseshoe bend before the Rt.9 bridge) , in a short while you will come to a section with quite a few larger rock structures showing above water ... the park landing is there on your right .

There is launch park below Rt.9 bridge on river right (just after the big rocky drop out (which you won't get through by canoe) ... the water is deep below that drop out , that launch park area (river right) to Millville dam . From that launch and park area (deep water) below the drop out , the river right terrain goes steep , almost straight up and some shear rock faces .

That diagonal ledge is more like a low head dam if you ask me , can't say that for certain but it is the way it cuts the river that you will want to look at before deciding to drop through it , there doesn't seem to be any type of a chute to run , just the water changes direction from flat to a deep crevice and shifts left (river left terrain rises quickly there , so river right would most likely be better for a quick portage) . I was trying to find some written info. about that ledge for you but was unsuccessful ... all the guide topics offer is the intire stretch is begginer and class I , makes no cautionary mention of the more nasty ledges , just says some ledges .

As for riverside camping for an over-nighter along the way ... there are tons of isolated and remote spots to just pull up and pitch a tent and campfire on a little higher ground ... no one ever bothered us about it before , but things might be somewhat different now a days (who knows ??) , but I doubt it , it's just way we always did it and river folk in that area are good folk , just don't make camp in their back yard (improved yard) without walking up to their back door and asking first (maybe even offer 10 bucks) which we have done also and they were good with that too .

ps., ... after you round Avon Bend and come upon another ledge (still water above , rock garden below) , keep an eye out over on "RIVER LEFT" below high terrain for the possibilty of very dangerous rapid with mega rooster tails (they may or may not be there at the time) , avoid them at all cost if they are ... better yet just stay river right after Avon Bend until past the park area . (and if you hear a bell clanging up on a high bluff river left , back ferry and get river right quickly - there is a killer spot over there on "RIVER LEFT" , can be beautiful to look at if it's throwing 6' rooster tails into wave trains but stay away from it rooster tails or not) .

found my Ed Grove book
which has been missing for awhile, and it has good descriptions of these stretches. it notes that drop 3 miles below Morgans Ford is a 2-foot Class II ledge, with another 1-foot ledge shortly after that.

“a good level for this trip is 2 feet on the Front Royal gauge. At 3 feet, all rapids are washed out. The bare minimum is 1 foot on the gauge.”

also found some additional info on

We’ll likely do the 20-mile run from Morgans Ford to Lockes Mill, and save the Rt. 7 to 9 run for another day. Thanks again!

hope you have a great time …
… on the Shenandoah , I know you will !!

Please bring back some pics. to share with us if you can . Sounds like your Ed Grove book is a good one .

"Classic Virginia Rivers"
A Paddler’s Guide to Premier Whitewater and Scenic Float Trips in the Old Dominion.

the book dates back nearly 20 years but it’s a great resource for anyone paddling in VA!


– Last Updated: Jul-17-10 10:09 PM EST –

our weekender on the Shen worked out great, it's a wonderfully beautiful river... finding a hidden waterfall was a great surprise... thanks to all who offered advice!

Rt. 7 to 9
In contemplating the next section of the river, I happened upon this article in the P-Net archives:

anyone here familiar with the rapid described? A kayaker died near Shannondale Springs a few weeks ago, and I wonder if it happened at this very spot.

Also found some info on the aforementioned public boat launch in that area, part of the Shannondale Springs WMA run by WVDNR.

sapien , thanks so much for sharing …

– Last Updated: Jun-15-10 1:12 PM EST –

...... those photos of your days on the Shen. recently . Don't know about anyone else but they really strike a heart felt tone for me , bring back memories of a river I fell in love with so many moons ago , her name was Shenandoah and she was beautiful , stealing the hearts of many that spent time with her .

She doesn't look like she's aged a bit , though I have . I wonder if she'd remember me ...

Tell me please , where did you come across that little sneak off to the the cascade and swimming hole ??

The ledges looked like you had plenty of water for your trip . Do you remember the gauge when you went (under 2' at Front Royal) ??

Tell , where did you finally chose to make camp ... the eats pics. look 1st class and made me hungry !!

thanks again , great pics. and I think you all have fallen in love with her too !!

ps., ... she has temper tantrums sometimes and then there's hell to pay , so keep an eye on her .

no one seems to have any …

– Last Updated: Jun-15-10 12:11 PM EST –

...... knowing of that rapid when I've ask others about it .

I did some (not very technical) searching to find out more about it for years after my encounter with it , and then one day just ask Tamia what she thought could have caused it .

Two reasons I can think of for that . One because they haven't been where it occurs , the other because it must not have been showing when they were around it .

I can not say why the latter is , it is a mystery to me . Tamia tried to help with the understanding of the hydro mechanics that could be taking place there . She has so much better knowledge on those things than I . When Tamia decided it a good idea to talk some about it in her writings , I was very hopeful some others who knew about it would be reading her work and chime in to shed some more light about it ... I don't believe anyone ever said anymore about it from there .

There may be a very narrow window in the river level that makes it show it's face , but even that is difficult for me to understand if that could be the case .

I've only seen it once , and it was just as describe in Tamia's writings . I've been right there were it takes place quite a number of times and only saw it just that once ... a mystery ??

I do not know of the recent kayaker's death that you mentioned ... can you think of a way to get more specific info. about that , I would like to know as well . I am willing to try to do some investigating about that also .

Go round Avon Bend (a right turning hairpin/horseshoe in the river) , now you are heading down towards the small park/launch , which is about 2 miles above Rt.9 (see prior post) ... a similar high rising rock cliff/bluff/outcropping to the one in your photos on "RIVER LEFT" (memory says higher) ... if it is showing , it will be there not very long now , after Avon Bend on the way down towards the small park/launch .

My only and best suggestion , is to stay river right (at least the right half of the river) as you round Avon Bend and continue on down towards the small park/launch ... that way there will be no chance of getting near where it takes place , wether it's showing or not ... once you enter into the immediate area of rocks just above the park , you are clear of it for sure .

Look for a bell and with a railing (river left) up high on that rock cliff ... if you can see it , it is almost directly above the area of the danger .

Sure would love to see some more photos if you make the next run .

She is indeed
a special one among rivers, and I was in awe of her beauty… I’ve paddled the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah but never been on the main river before.

The cascade is on Spout Run, a tributary that enters on river left across from Calmes Neck. It’s hidden behind a little sandbar island, and disguised by the sound of water rushing over a little ledge right before you get there. But I could hear the roar in the distance, paddled up behind the island to investigate, turned the corner and there it is! We had thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon so the waterfall was flowing strong on Sunday morning, the water was quite cold and refreshing on a hot day. (That’s me swimming around in the pool.)

I had aimed to camp on one of the islands north of the Hwy. 50/17 bridge, but with all the rain this Spring they are overgrown and clogged up with debris. We ended up camping on the mainland bank behind Burwell Island at about this spot:,-77.978662&num=1&t=h&sll=39.066522,-77.978715&sspn=0.002945,0.004823&ie=UTF8&ll=39.066597,-77.978554&spn=0.011779,0.01929&z=16

The gravel bar on the island across from there looks usable, but is narrow and very rocky. I found a clearing in the trees up above the bank and hacked a path thru the weeds. Not the ideal spot, a bit muddy but it was well protected when the storms rolled through. Later I found an established but tiny campsite at the northern tip of Burwell Island, it too sits up high and is a bit muddy but more sandy, and the rapid there where the channel rejoins the river is loud and has a strong current.

The SF gauge in Front Royal was at 1.3-1.4’ and the gauge in Millville was at 2.4’. This was the perfect level IMO for this stretch; the flatwater current was about 2 mph and in places the river is rather deep, much deeper than the South Fork. The numerous ledges were all runnable, scrapey in spots but I think there was only one time where I had to push off a rock. The big ledge in the Shenandoah Farms area (a couple miles north of Morgans Ford) is marvelous to look at, and has an easy slot to run near river left that you can see in the pics. There is also an old native-American fish dam in the vicinity of Mercer Farm Ln, visible on Google Earth and was quite neat to see that in person.

I certainly hope to run this stretch again someday :slight_smile:

the kayakers name was
Ryan Shulz, found just upstream of Shannondale Springs. He was only 22 and unfortunately, at least one report I read stated he wasn’t wearing his PFD, and paddling alone.

was wondering if the guage history …

– Last Updated: Jun-15-10 10:32 PM EST –

....... might show something that could of been associated with Ryan's fatal day . Don't think so ...

Only see one thing that could be a surprise and a bit unusual . There was a spike (around end of day May 30th) of just under a foot that looks like it came on kinda quick , looks like the in the last couple hours of the day though ... probably dark at the time so ...

This doesn't sound like much , but if you look at the CFS volumn you can see the river went better than twice it's volumn (from 850 to 1750 cfs) in quick time .

This is a reading up at front Royal ... Millville confirms the spike made it down there about 1-1/2 days later . That puts the rise moving at about 2 mph. which isn't really increasing the river speed too much , but in tighter spots maybe some .

Probably has nothing to do with anything about Rayan .

I was up on the Shen. (around Millville) to have a look at her when she went flood recently ... Harpers was scarey looking as it gets then also .

Go back 100 days to see the river rise , how fast she did it and much ... just pick some guage sites like PawPaw , Hancock , Point of Rocks , on down (Potomac) ... check the Shen. roar up , Millville (put 100 days in the box on each sites history).


I always watch the upstream guages when I put in on the rivers , I know about how long it takes( x-days) to make it to various places downstream ... sometimes I know I have only hrs. before it gets there , other times a day-two .

Hmmm, conspiracy theorists enter here

– Last Updated: Jun-16-10 8:25 AM EST –

I generally discount far out theories of huge secret government projects. But Dan's mystery rapid reminded me of some posts on the old CPA list serve concerning fishing, water flows, and water temperature in this area. It started with somebody asking a question about fishing. I started looking at some stream flow data that didn't add up, I think water was disappearing, and seemed like there was some water temperature readings that were unusually warm for the time of year. There was a fellow who used to post to the CPA list that was an AF officer, and he basically told us if we had any sense we would stop chattering about this (begin spooky background music).

The Mt. Weather contingency operations center is over there, and I thought our AF friend might be hinting that the water phenomenon we were looking at had something to do with that. I wish I could remember the name of the stream* we were talking about, but Mt. Weather, if I correctly understood it's non-disclosed location, was many miles away and on the other side of the river. So, I didn't think it had to do with Mt. Weather. The best I could come up with was maybe it was a generator. But I looked at lots of aerial imagery and didn't see anything that looked like it was more than a barn or shed. Eventually, I forgot about it, until your post on water mysteriously jumping up without a logical source.

Avon Bend is more than five miles as the crow flies from Bluemont, and I think further from Mt. Weather. I don't think Mt. Weather has much to do with your mystery rapid. Mt Weather is said to contain considerable water works, including large storage tanks and an underground lake. But it's miles away.

The person ringing the bell is a strange note. A good Samaritan? Are they on the look out for random canoeists, they run out and start ringing the bell when they see somebody coming. Or, are they just on duty when somebody turns a spigot to spill out a 250,000 gal water tank? Or fires up a generator?

It sure is hard to understand how you could have rooster tails like you describe when the water levels were otherwise normal. There are no natural rooster tails of that size on the whole 'doah system. So, if not natural, what?


* pulled out the map--must have been Opequan Creek, but I don't see the gauge anomaly in current data. It's all a figment of my imagination.