Monday, May 4, 2009

James River at Buchanan - April 2009

Spring rains had swollen the James River for my second paddle of the year a couple of weeks ago in Buchanan, Virginia. Two to four inches of rain gave the James River a swift current with plenty of floating debris for an hour's paddle on a cloudy, cool day with off and on showers. Paddling in these conditions can be dangerous if you are not a strong paddler and don't know what you're doing - the current is very swift, and it's quite easy to be swept away, or swept into overhanging strainers on cut banks. This location was, in fact, my second choice. I deemed the current at my initial put-in location (Springwood) to be too dangerous on this day and chose to use the boat ramp in Buchanan instead.

In these conditions, I usually paddle upstream hugging the shoreline, where the current is slowest, working from eddy to eddy until I reach the first upstream rapid. In the case of the James River on this day, the water was moving too fast for me to paddle farther upstream beyond the first set of rapids, so I returned to my starting point - in this case, the public boat ramp in Buchanan.

The video below is a short, 15 second, clip of the current on the James River on this day, April 21st:

video


In addition to the swift current, a fair amount of debris was in the water this day, ranging from branches to logs, and plastic bottles to tires. Most were easy to avoid and did nothing more than provide a small bump to the side of my 14' Heritage Sea Dart. However, some of the larger logs and trees could be dangerous if caught off guard. Paddling when a river is in flood can be very dangerous, but it can also be rewarding and challenging with the right boat and sufficient expertise.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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