Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cowpasture River at Walton Tract - May 2009

The Cowpasture River merges with the Jackson River near Clifton Forge, Virginia to form the head of the James River. Several miles upstream from that confluence is the Walton Tract, a 2.5 mile stretch of the Cowpasture River legally accessible to paddlers from a couple of access points within the Tract.

Before venturing out, I conferred with the owner of Riders Up Outfitters in Clifton Forge (who by the way, sell Hertiage Kayaks in addition to lots of gear, and also do local trips on the James, Jackson, and Cowpasture Rivers) as to any public put-in spots along the Cowpasture, and he pointed the way to the Walton Tract, just off Route 42. Several river access points are available in the Walton Tract, and the one I chose had easy (albeit muddy) access to the river and parking for several vehicles. No other facilities are available.

Off and on showers in addition to about 4500 cubic feet per second of discharge (from recent heavy rains) made for a challenging paddle along the river. The current was strong enough that I had to keep to the side of the river to make any headway, and so I mostly ferried back and forth across the river while playing in the current with my 14' Heritage Sea Dart.

Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes I made the mistake of nosing out into the fast current which caught the bow of my boat and tilted the boat into the current faster than I could react - and over I went. It's the only time I've capsized outside of the surf zone at the beach.

Given how quickly the current was moving, I made the mistake of trying to turn the boat around with the nose in the current and the stern in an eddy, and this made the boat unstable. Fortunately, I was wearing my PFD and didn't lose hold of the boat, and I was able to swim out of the current into an eddy and right the boat before climbing back aboard - and before being swept downstream. There were no bruises other than to my ego and a lost rain hat.

I look forward to returning to this location later in the season when water levels are a bit lower. It's a beautiful, secluded location with an interesting stretch of water for paddlers.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

No comments: