Thursday, October 9, 2008

James River at Eagle Rock - October 2008

Primitive access to the James River is available beneath the Route 220 overpass near Eagle Rock, Virginia. I arrived this afternoon to paddle the flatwater available on this section of the river with my 17' Heritage Expedition. I don't usually bring the big boat with me when I paddle on the James, but it worked out nicely today. For its size, it's highly maneuverable and very fast.

A rough gravel path leads down to the river here, and four-wheel drive is a requirement if you wish to drive down to the water's edge, being careful to not get stuck or bogged down on wet parts on the trail. The access road is very steep and rocky. Parking is available at the top of the access road for numerous vehicles.

The put-in spot is at the confluence of Craig's Creek and the James River, and you can choose to paddle upstream or downstream on the James from this spot.

It's about half a mile downstream to the next set of rapids, and the flatwater here is wide and deep. Water clarity is exceptional, with a view of the rocky river bottom at almost any point on the river. Lots of freshwater clams and crayfish are visible, as well as the occasional small fish. Route 220, a popular truck route, borders one side of the river, providing the paddler with a constant crescendo of diesel clatter and engine brakes. It is otherwise a peaceful and pretty location. Folded and faulted Ordovician and Silurian clastic sedimentary rocks are exposed along a roadcut where the James and Route 220 cut through a ridge.

I usually paddle upstream through the first set of rapids, too, and one will find another half mile or so of flatwater in that direction. However, water levels were low enough to prevent me from going farther upstream today - a first for me.

The Eagle Rock boat access is a popular put-in spot for James River trippers heading downstream, but it's also a nice spot for the flatwater paddler looking for an afternoon paddle.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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