Williamsburg, VA Rivers?????

I just found out that I am going to be moving to the Williamsburg, VA area and am curious what kind of river paddling opportunities there are there.

I am an avid sea kayaker and I know that I will be set with ocean paddling nearby, but also love to canoeing and whitewater kayaking.

I see the James and York Rivers are there but not sure what kind of paddling they offer. Is there whitewater in this part of Virginia?

How about opportunities for wilderness tripping? I am hoping that there are some remote rivers that will allow multi-day river camping trips.

Again, about all I know about the area is from what I can see from looking at Google Maps.

thanks for your help


Welcome to VA
Matt - welcome to Virginia. Plenty of tidal water to choose from with the James and York right near by. One of my favorite places to paddle is the tip of the Virginia Eastern Shore; Mockhorn and Smith Islands - right conditions set up for some confused seas and tidal race action. That’s an hour and a $12 toll away.

The Middle Peninsula has Gloucester and Mathews counties with lots of Bay paddling.

Nearest whitewater is only 50 miles NW in downtown Richmond. Active paddling community - check out Coastals.org (actually a whitewater group primarily despite the name). Lots of creeking in the Blue Ridge Mtns when it is running, but that is beyond my current ww skill set. Those runs are probably 3 - 4 hours to a put in for you.

I haven’t spent much time on them, but the Nottoway and Blackwater have good fairly remote tripping opportunities.

Take care - Jamie

Welcome to Virginia
check out the Virginia Paddler’s Association at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VirginiaPaddlersAssociation/?yguid=429420786. They lead a lot of day trips and overnighters in Virginia and West Virginia along with Coastals.org and Monocacy Canoe Club.

James River and tributaries offers about 1000 miles of canoe or kayak trip opportunities. Lots of reservoirs offer inland sea kayaking and camping spots.

Good luck and enjoy your move.

Pretty Flat Area
I think that neck between the James and York rivers is pretty flat. I think you have to go west of I95 to get to the fall line, like for the James in Richmond, the Rap at Fredericksburg and the Appomatox at Petersburg.

There are some scenic CII rapids on the Appomattox, which will be an hour-plus drive from Williamsburg, and you have to almost pass through Richmond to get there. But if the James is too high, this will be a good river to check out. http://www.mypaddlediary.com/?p=23

For wilderness camping, you can camp on Mockhorn Island, but the highest/driest, best place I have found to camp is the ruins of the sporting camp on the southern tip of the island. It works, but not too scenic. I learned there is a way to get permission to camp on some of the islands that are Wildlife refuges–Smith I think. I forget the details, but you have to be a member or support some organization. That, I think is worth looking into. I need to see if I can find more about that. These are areas I would only want to camp in during low-bug season, although Smith might be okay if there was a sea breeze, as often happens.

And, I already mentioned, False Cape is nice, too. Same concern with bug season, though.


Here ya go
For flat water paddling, this site really covers it…


a few guidebook suggestions
Classic Virginia Rivers - Ed Grove

Virginia Whitewater - Roger Corbett

Sea Kayaking Virginia - Andrea Nolan

this website describes a number of good river trips with camping opportunities (it doesn’t have all of them though!):


your best bets for ww besides the aforementioned Appomattox, that are not too awful far from Williamsburg are probably going to be the lower James through downtown Richmond (urban whitewater!) and the North Anna river.

Northwest of you, the upper stretches of the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey are interesting and long meandering floats through some remote countryside; the Chickahominy may be also, judging from a trip report here on P-Net.

The Chickahominy
is my favorite river in the area. I paddled all the James, York, Chicahominy, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi. I also paddled from Richmond to Washington, D.C. (350 miles). There is plenty of great paddling.

Send me an email when you get there. I live in Mechanicsville.