Saturday, July 18, 2009

James River at Gala - July 2009

I last visited the James River at Gala in May when the river was in flood and water levels were several feet higher. The river today was much milder with clear water and a mild current. The Gala location offers walk-down access to the James River behind a convenience store just off Route 220 between Iron Gate and Eagle Rock, Virginia. Parking is available for several vehicles, and four or five of them in the parking area were evidence of James River trippers today when I arrived.

Using my fat kayak wheels, I was able to walk my 14' Heritage Sea Dart down to the water and put in on the flatwater available on this section of the river. Paddling upstream, the first set of rapids isn't encountered for several hundred yards, making for a pleasant paddle. Exposed tree roots on the river banks were not evident at all when I visited this location in May, and the slower water was appreciated.

The first set of rapids encountered upstream are very mild. I was able to power through most of them, with the exception of the last little bit where the water was just too shallow. But it was a simple matter to hop of the boat and pull it the last ten feet in order to keep moving upstream.

A couple of small tributaries enter the James above Gala. I enjoy paddling up tributaries as far as possible before having to back down or turn around. I've learned that it's an advantage to carry a small Swiss Army knife with a saw blade when traveling on a tributary, as I often need to remove small overhanging branches.

Numerous fish were visible in the clear water as well as crayfish. The water invites you to slow down and float with the current while you gaze at the river bottom.

A couple of families coming to tube on the river arrived in the parking area as I was packing up shop. Otherwise, I had the river to myself this afternoon for an hour's paddle. View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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