Wednesday, June 10, 2009

James River at Springwood - June 2009

A hazy, humid airmass with distant thunder was the backdrop for a couple of hours of paddling on the James River above the Springwood boat access this afternoon, just off Route 43 north of Buchanan, Virginia. The Springwood access point provides good access to the river, with a gravel ramp and plenty of parking. Unfortunately, access to the river is smack in the middle of a rapid, and when the water is relatively high, as it was this afternoon, you have to be on your game as soon as you place your paddle in the water.

My intention today was to paddle upstream through the rapid to a long stretch of flatwater, then follow the river upstream to the next rapid. The water level was about two feet higher today than it was last fall when I was here, so the water was moving pretty quickly - making it a bit of a challenge to power through the rapid to the flatwater. Once through the rapid, however, the paddler is greeted with a relatively long stretch of flatwater with only a moderate current.

To my rear, a distant thunderstorm over the Blue Ridge Mountains became severe, then tornadic, all the while providing rumbles of thunder as my soundtrack. Depending on cadence, the next set of rapids is reached in about 30-40 minutes. It's a long set of rapids and looks like it would be difficult to power through, so I rested in an eddy and admired the overgrown vegetation lining the riverbank.

I had been keeping a wary eye on the weather as I was paddling, knowing that storms were popping all around me. The tornadic storm behind me, I knew, was traveling away from me, but overhanging trees made it difficult to see if new storms were firing nearby, even from the middle of the river. A close-by rumble of thunder made me reevaluate my presence on the water, so I turned around, lit the afterburners, and paddled back to the boat ramp in about 10 minutes. By the time I had the boat loaded on the truck, light rain was beginning to fall.

On the positive side, the boat access ramp is located directly beneath an overpass, so it's possible to load and unload in the rain without getting wet.

Several vehicles in the parking area belonged to James River trippers. You can put in here and paddle downstream to Buchanan, Alpine, Arcadia, Glasgow, or Snowden. Or put in farther upstream towards Eagle Rock, Gala, or Iron Gate and paddle back down to Springwood. You can read about each of these locations be selecting the appropriate category in the menu on the right side of the page.

This afternoon, though, I had the river to myself.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

1 comment:

David said...

Hi, Steve. Read a few post of your blog (I'm a fellow blogger). I live in Buchanan and try to get on the river as much as I can, but probably only once every two weeks or so and mostly either start or end here, but looking to expand. Don't know if you need the company, but if you feel like a trip, try me at I'm leaving for NY, where I'm orgininaly from, on Tuesday the 23rd for a week, but back in July.