Shenendoah River Canoe Trip???


I am looking to do a trip on the Shenendoah River. Looking to do two nights of wilderness camping on the river and about 40-50 miles of paddling.

Any suggestions on where to start, shuttle services, etc?

I know little about this river. How rain dependent is it? Any other info or recourses that you can direct me to would be appreciated.



Good Resources out there
Hopefully Andy (Canoedancing) will see this and be able to provide some detailed info - there is a e-mail group of VA paddlers, some of whom paddle the Shenandoah a good bit. Andy should be able to hook you up with the right folks.

I would also recommend Roger Corbett’s book on Virginia Rivers - very detailed. I can’t vouch for the accuracy on the 'Doah, but most of the sections of other rivers that I’ve done have matched his info.

I have done Luray to Bentonville.
Nice river. There is a lot of public land on river left you can camp on. River right is mostly private.

you could do Luray to Bentonville in 2 days if the water is up a bit. You wouldn’t want to try it if the river is down. We took 3 days. There are some great little rapids to work out. Comptons is the only one that can really get tricky.

Here is a source for a map of this fork of the river.

I know the stretch from …

– Last Updated: Mar-20-09 10:05 AM EST –

...... Berryville,Va. (rt 7 bridge) on down to Charlestown,W.Va. (rt 9 bridge/Charlestown Rd.)

from there on down to Millville Dam (about 20' high), on down to Harpers Ferry

spent lots of time up in the Front Royal,Va. and Stroughsburg area (George Washington National Forrest) stretch (near rt 66) also ,

haven't been on the stretch from Front Royal to Berryville (Winchester.Va) though , so can't say about portages through that stretch , although i know there is another dam a ways below Front Royal .

from Berryville to Harpers Ferry , you have 3 areas that will need special considerations (portage at Millville dam is a certainty , you can get out river left and a vehical can drive all the way up to dam) , there is short a section below rt 9 bridge and above Millville dam that has major huge rocks and drops that you probably will need to portage , and then there's the stretch that goes from below Millville dam on down to Harpers Ferry , that needs to be looked at carefully before deciding to run the intire stretch without any further portages .

It's been awhile since I've actually run the Shenandoah , but was up there checking it all out again last week ... looks the same to me . It's a tame mountain river when not under flood , but has it's portage areas that get in the way .

also might add , it is one of my favorites , and maybe the most beautiful mountain river I've known most of my life , spent a lot of time on it in the past .

Out of Print Books

– Last Updated: Mar-20-09 11:14 AM EST –

Louis Matacia wrote a series of pamphlet/books on the 'doah that has very detailed descriptions. Of course, it's next to impossible to buy. Maybe a library would have them. Or e-mail me if you want. I think I have Louis' number--he doesn't fancy the internet.

I've paddled Rt 50 to Rt 9. There's a commercial campground along the river there, but otherwise your camping options are limited.

Check with outfitters near Front Royal. The area around Bentonville and Compton have camping possibilities. I paddled up there one day/night but never camped (should have--smacking into ledges in the pitch dark wasn't fun). Very nice and scenic part of the river.

And yes, check Corbett's book. He used to paddle with Matacia and I think material probably migrated from Louis' books to Corbett's. Anyway, Corbett paddled everything in his book, so the descriptions are good. Sometimes Corbett's mileage is off, but they didn't have GPS when those guys were writing, so give him some slack.

LOOKEE HERE at this site I just, by coincidence, stumbled on:


Below Rt. 9?

Whats that section below Rt. 9 like? I read that between the beefy rapid and the damn that is reputed to be a nasty portage, it ain’t worth it.

I see “big-as-yer-leg” fish cruising that section below the Millville put-in, before the rapids start. I suppose those are carp. But it looks like a good area to fish.


this is a good resource

when you select a river, click on the “Maps & Access” link on the far right to get a list of putins, mileage and dams/portages info. There are also links for facilities, fishing regs and pics

also worth bookmarking:

Contact "Friends of the Shena… River"
They have an extraordinarily useful map resource. In addition to that Bruce Ingram wrote a book on the Shenandoah and Rappahannock Rivers.

Pretty much all of the Shenandoah is navigable, with a few exceptions for dams. The most egregious dam I know of is on the mainstem downriver from Rt. 9 at Millville, WV.

There is some whitewater, and a few significant rapids. Bruce Ingram’s book does a good job of describing them. The atlas from Friends of the Shenandoah River map them out specifically for you. I have Corbett’s book, but just got it, and so I haven’t had the chance to check it against actual river conditions yet. The book has an exceptional reputation among people who should know, so is likely to be accurate. I just can’t give it a personal thumbs up yet.

Try and contact ShenandoahRiverRat. He’s pretty active in B&B and a little less so on the Fishing forum. He’s a good guy and knows the Shenandoah extremely well, especially the South Fork and Main Stem near and below Front Royal (though he’ll be all modest and say he doesn’t know it too well).

  • Big D

hey Chip , the section you mentioned …

– Last Updated: Mar-20-09 6:58 PM EST –

...... from below those "beefy rapids" to Millville dam is deep calm water ... about those beefy rapids "actually I think they are more like humunges gigantis boulders that are mostly impassable because of the "BIG" drops in between the boulders" at normal water guage" . Under high water they are all but invisable , although you won't be able miss the steep drop in the river , it's a short very steep section with monsters below you !!

Once below those big boulder drops , you enter the calm deep water and soon a big bend to the left on down to the dam ... at about the bend , river right shore is a shear high vertical rock face and river right pretty much stays high and steep from the dam on down .

Below rt 9 bridge and right at the steep boulder drop out , ON RIVER RIGHT , there is a small island (just before the gigantis boulders and rapids) , you ought to be able to slip in on the right side of island and get out before the rough stuff ... just below those gigantis boulders (I can't say that enough) and rapids , in the calm again there is public launch , but you could put in again well above the launch but below the rough stuff ... that little stretch you are talking about is just a big steep drop out in the river , I think nasty is a good word for it , but WW's might think otherwise !! That steep drop out in the river , just isn't all that long in my memory maybe a 1/4 mile .

Lots of info out there
I’ve paddled the majority of the South Fork from it’s beginning to Bentonville. Haven’t made it to the main stem yet. Most of the South Fork upstream of Luray is private on both sides of the river, with just a few exceptions. Below Luray, there’s considerably more forest land that’s suitable for camping. One good 2-3 day trip would begin at Luray and go to Front Royal.

The South Fork generally holds enough water for year round paddling, however it can get a little painful for boats loaded with a couple days of gear in late summer. If the Front Royal gauge is dropping below 1.5 feet, you will probably find that you may need to get out occasionally through the more shallow sections.

Quite a few outfitters inhabit these waters, so there could be lots of fellow boaters around on the weekends during the summer. Peruse the outfitter web sites for maps and river info. Here are some of the ones that are located along the South Fork:

wow Chip , that link !!

– Last Updated: Mar-20-09 11:37 PM EST –

..... I took a look at the South Fork and the N.Fork of the Shenandoah ... the pictures made my heart skip a few beats !!

I spent 17 years visiting all that area , wading , fishing , hiking , camping , around and in , and along the river (about 3-4 x's a yr.) ... Woodstock/Strausburg had (or has ??) a county fair you wouldn't believe (but that's another story - cost ya buck to learn how to get pounded in the head with a hi-heel shoe)!!

My main stay was in what used to be called "Thunderbird" , but then one day someone improved the first 1/4 mile of the road that droped on down to the river (which at the time was a steep downhill dirt road through the woods with ruts in it that could swallow a truck whole) ... "funny , down near the bottom there was this spot where about a dozen junked/abandoned cars were left" , lol !! (by the way , those ol junkers saved our bacon one rainy storming day when I blew the front driveshaft universal climbing back up from the river , just enough parts to piece it back together and make it home , lol)

I just know you appreciated that last tid bit ... sorry , but it's true , lol .

Then the next year , another 1/4 mile or so was improved , and so on and so on ... people were building beautiful secluded homes in there , one at a time . Before you know it the old dirt road that fell down to the river had become a major chip and tar all the way and homes popping up everywhere in there .

I looked at it on the Google map in the link and it is a big ol community now ... I mostly stopped going there by late 70's , and only re-visited a few times in the early 80's .

I think you'll understand this Chip , I used to carry my daughter on my shoulders when wading/fishing out there ...