Tuesday, August 26, 2008

James River at Alpine - August 2008

The western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for an afternoon paddle on the James River near Alpine. Several areas along the river here provide fisherman access to the river, aka you have to carry your boat down to the water in order to put in. I chose a section today with about 1000 yards of flatwater between two rapids and a mild to flat current in between.

A father and two small sons said hi as they paddled past on their way farther downstream in a canoe, otherwise I had this section of the river to myself for about 50 minutes of paddling. Since I'm not typically using a shuttle, I put in and paddle upstream to the first set of rapids, then turn around and float down to the first set of rapids downstream. In this section of the river, it takes about 10 minutes to paddle back and forth between the rapids.

The 14' Heritage is nearly perfect for this section of water. It's small enough to maneuver between rocks and rapids, yet fast enough to cover ground at speed. However, at 53 pounds empty, it could be a little less cumbersome getting off the car and down to the water.

The current is strong enough in places to practice your ferry techniques, both facing upstream and facing downstream, and the water is clear enough to peruse rocks and ledges beneath the water surface. 

Much of the rock in this part of the James River is folded and faulted, and rock layers cross the river with a steep dip of around 70 degrees, producing abundant ledges. A couple of hundred years ago, crews apparently blasted channels through some of the these ledges for river boats.

Rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay are forecasted to raise water levels by at least a couple of feet over the next several days, with up to 8 inches of rain possible. We'll see about that. But at least the rain will be more than welcome.

I shared this section of water with a family of ducks today:

Train tracks border this section of the James River, and it's not uncommon to have large coal trains steam by you once or twice during a cruise. Some of these trains are approaching a mile long, on their way from the coal fields of West Virginia to points east like Richmond and Norfolk.

I sometime pause in a back eddy just to listen to the rapids for a while. View a short, 15 second, video clip of the rapids on this section of river:

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.


Jay Heath said...

Steve, I am impressed with the range and frequency of your paddling ventures. I very much enjoy the photography and the descriptive narratives offered.

Jay Heath

Steve said...

Thanks, Jay! And right back at you with regards to your blog! I hope to have a better camera with me in the near future - one that captures low light and bright light situations much better.