Monday, May 11, 2009

James River at Gala - May 2009

Primitive access to the James River is available via a small dirt road on the north side of the natural gas depot in Gala, Virginia, just off Route 220. I chose to explore this access point on a cloudy, cool May day with occasional raindrops. Access to the river is via a small path from a parking area suitable for a handful of vehicles, noting that one must also cross railroad tracks. The path is relatively short, and my fat kayak wheels made short work of the distance.

For paddlers putting in, talking out, or passing by here, there is also a small convenience store within short walking distance of this access point, just to the south of the gas depot.

Recent rains have swollen the James River resulting in high water and a fast current. Swirling eddies in these conditions can play havoc with boat stabilty, so I stuck to the side of the river on my way upstream, where the current was moving slowest, in my 14' Heritage Sea Dart.

I was pleasantly surprised to come upon Sinking Creek, a small tributary, just upsteam of the Gala access. Passing under the railroad and Route 220, this tributary had deep enough water to venture upstream several hundred yards.

Sinking Creek provided relief from the James' unyielding current, and as a bonus, it was quite beautiful, with deep holes, overhanging trees, and interesting siliciclastic rock outcrops (for a geologist like me, that is).

I was able to venture upstream until the water shallowed out and I hit the first sizable rapid. I wonder if there'll be enough water to explore this creek later in the summer.

In all, I spent about an hour on the water today fighting with the strong current on the James and exploring Sinking Creek. Although I didn't get the chance to paddle too far upstream, there appears to be a fair amount of flatwater along this stretch of the James. I'll be to sure to visit this access point again, perhaps after water levels have dropped enough to permit upstream travel.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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