Tuesday, October 7, 2008

James River at Springwood - October 2008

Temperatures in the 60's, a light breeze suitable for sailing, and beautiful fall color lured me to the James River today to check out the flatwater available for paddlers at the Springwood boat access near Buchanan, Virginia.

Access to the river is located beneath the Route 630 overpass. Parking is available for a number of vehicles, and a nice gravel path leads down the river bank to the water. I used to my fat kayak wheels to roll my boat down the path. Put-in is available just upstream of a small rapid in very shallow water. Plan on getting your feet wet here. As is typically the case on my weekday paddles, I the river to myself this afternoon for an hour's paddle.

A series of three Class I rapids drop the river a foot or two in this location, and I was pleased to find about a mile and a half of good, deep flatwater upstream of the first rapid. Boat access is provided just above the third and final rapid. However, even with low water levels, I found it fairly easy to power upstream through the first two rapids to access the flatwater section of the river.

As I paddled up the river, I noticed a nice breeze coming from my rear, so I took the opportunity to use my Spirit Sail and test a new platform mount. In this case, I used some superglue and velcro to mount the mast platform, and with the help of a couple of bungees, found the platform to be stable and hold the sail as the boat skimmed across the water...at least until a strong gust broke the superglue bond. So it's back to the drawing board; I may just have to bite the bullet and hard-mount the platform to the hull of this boat.

The river is wide and deep in this location, and there is enough flatwater for a lengthy cruise or good workout. There seems to be little activity on this section of the river, resulting in lots of peace and solitude. I noticed a number of hawks soaring on the thermals above as they migrate southward. A train track follows the river on one side, but it's hidden for the most part, and only one train went by me on its way downriver during my cruise.

Depending on how fast you paddle and the speed of your boat, it may take 30 minutes of paddling upstream to reach the next set of rapids. This is a long Class I set of riffles and waves, and it would require a lengthy portage to go through.

I'd recommend this stretch of the James River for anyone looking for an hour's paddle on flatwater. Easy boat access and a location only a few miles off I-81 are a bonus.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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