Wednesday, August 20, 2008

James River Above Snowden Dam - August 2008


The James River upstream of Snowden Dam provides about a mile or so of flatwater for kayakers and other paddlers to enjoy. Farther upstream there are rock gardens and rapids preventing further access without portaging. Depending on water levels, it's possible to paddle upstream through the first couple of Class I riffles before turning around and floating downstream.

I frequent this part of the James River quite often using my 14' Heritage Sea Dart or my 17' Heritage Expedition. I also like to bring along the kids in our Mainstream Tango Tandem, aka the family truckster, and let them tube, swim, and play around in the water. This time of the year, the water temperature is usually in the 70s.

The public concrete boat ramp above Snowden Dam provides access to the river for small boats, canoes, and kayaks. There is parking for about a dozen vehicles. After putting in, one paddles into the James River from a tributary, then continues upstream under the Appalachian Trail bridge following a railroad track upstream for as far as you can go before encountering rapids.


This part of the James River travels through a cut in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the ridge on either side of the river rising to 3000 to 4000 feet above sea level. The current is small to nonexistent, especially below the last rapids, making for an easy paddle for most kayakers. Wildlife consists of frequent birds, turtles, and the occasional deer in the adjacent woods.


This part of the James River is a popular take-out spot for paddlers coming downriver from Glasgow (running the popular Balcony Falls) and points above, so it's not unusual to meet whitewater kayakers and canoeists on the river. View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

This is the inaugural blog of Virginia Paddler. I intend to blog about flatwater kayaking in the greater western Virginia area, with occasional tours elsewhere in the nation. I welcome your comments and questions!

1 comment:

Mike R said...

I have paddled this section of the river 3 times this year in my 12' Wilderness Systems Tarpon. First, I covered the area after paddling through Balcony Falls. The other times I paddled the exact section you discuss in your posting.
The section above the dam is a good largemouth bass fishing area with the rapids above it excellent for smallmouth bass.
Since this area is behind the dam it is a good area to paddle while water levels are low as they are now.
I look forward to your future posts on this area of Virginia.