Wednesday, September 2, 2009

James River at Narrow Passage - August 2009

Public boat access to the James River is provided at the Narrow Passage (sometimes called Horseshoe Bend) boat ramp, several miles north of Buchanan, Virginia off Route 42. I arrived at the boat ramp last week on a warm and humid afternoon to paddle the flatwater available on this section of the river. During summer weekends, this access area can be crowded with James River trippers, and in fact, I've seen the parking lot full on those days. But on this Tuesday, only couple of cars were parked in the lot, and I had the river section to myself with my 14' Heritage Sea Dart.

A concrete boat ramp provides easy access to the water, and there is plenty of parking (on most days!). No other facilities are provided. Access to the river is at the top of a rather long Class I wave field, so I began by paddling upstream away from the rapids.

For the flatwater paddler, the amount of flatwater available upstream of the ramp amounts to the length of a Par-4 golf hole, and it takes only about 10 minutes to reach the first set of rapids.

With low water levels, it was a bit too difficult to power through these rapids, and I found myself striking the paddle blade on rocks too much. However, it was easy enough to hop off the boat and walk it over the riffles to continue on upriver.

For the flatwater paddler, I found that this stretch of the river offers only limited access. The next set of upstream rapids came up pretty quickly and represented a one-foot drop in the level of the river. Being more of a ledge, this rapid would be more difficult to portage, and looking upstream, I could see a third set of rapids very close by, and this third set of rapids looked to be fairly long. Deciding to halt my upstream progress, I turned around and paddled downstream through the rapids I had initially walked over.

The Narrow Passage access point is popular for James River trippers, coming or going. It doesn't really offer much more than about 30 minutes worth of flatwater paddling, though. View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

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