Monday, September 8, 2008

James River at Snowden - September 2008

I revisited the James River at Snowden today with my 17' Heritage Expedition for about an hour's worth of paddling on the reservoir backed up behind the dam. About 30 minutes from my home, this access point is an attractive destination for flatwater paddling in the area.

The Snowden access has a concrete boat ramp which allows for easy access to the water and parking for about a dozen vehicles. Once in, you must paddle beneath the road (Highway 501) about 10 yards to reach the James River. The low bridge prevents all but paddlecraft and the smallest of fishing boats from accessing the river with maybe three or four feet of clearance, depending on water levels.

Once on the James River, you will paddle upstream beneath the Appalachian Trail Footbridge and a railroad bridge.

As I wrote in my previous post about Snowden, the reservoir is large for the area and allows for at least a couple of hours of paddling. You're able to paddle about a mile upstream, though several rock gardens, before reaching the first set of rapids. At that point, I usually turn around and paddle downstream back to the dam. There are typically numerous turtles sunning themselves on rocks, and I once saw two deer swim across the river in front of me.

This cut in the Blue Ridge Mountains contains not only the river, but also Highway 501, a set of train tracks, the Appalachian Trail, and some power transmission lines. It's not unusual to have a coal train go by on its way downstream to a major population center such as Richmond or Norfolk.

Given all the potential activity, it's still makes for a peaceful paddle, and part of the river - a section removed from the highway - is quite remote and difficult to reach if rescue is needed. I had the river to myself this afternoon.

The river is flanked on either side by 4000-foot peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making it one of the most scenic sections of the river, and a popular spot for white water paddlers. The river cuts through numerous interesting rock outcrops.

There was just enough of a breeze for me to throw up my sail, but alas, the breeze died and I didn't get a chance to test my new rigging scheme. An ex-colleague from South Dakota will be testing the same sail on this boats in the coming weeks; be sure to check out his blog to read about his adventures sailing in South Dakota (which, admittedly, offers much more opportunity for sailing in the way of wind).

I welcome your comments and questions concerning this access point. View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

No comments: