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Mattaponi River in Virginia

Trip Overview

Trip: Rt. 628 bridge to Zoar (around 11 miles)

River level: 821

Paddle partner: Kirk Sweeney

Time: around 6 hrs.

Navigation: Topo maps/terrain association


Put in at the Rt. 628 bridge early morning. Be careful at the put in. It is very steep and slippery. You can park on the side of the road near the bridge. (Not a lot of room though)

This was an awesome paddle! We saw deer swimming across the river. A bald eagle scouting his/her hunting grounds. A river otter chased along the bank, while we floated by for about 25 yards and then disappeared over a high bank. A few ducks were spooked as we got close to them. We saw a lot of deer hunters hunting the banks. They were hunting with dogs and all were very nice. I was glad we decided to wear blazed orange during our float though.

The nice thing about this stretch of river is that there is little development on the river. Kirk and I also took most feeder creeks as far as possible before having to portage the canoes. We got out of the canoes and explored some land we had access to. There is a ton of wetlands just over the high bank all down the river. These wetlands are full of wild life. Lunch was taken on a nice piece of high ground with a great view of the river.

About 1/3 of the way through on river right you will come to the eastern most stand of Hemlock trees in Virginia. Do not be fooled by the banks of the river. (I was) In places, the banks appear to be large rock formations exposed by the flow of water. When in fact, the bank is a blue marle clay type of soil. This soil was laid down long ago by an ancient ocean. Our observation was that the river's current seemed to pick up along these types of banks. The pace of the river was a bit over lazy. No white water on this stretch and just a few trees/branches to dodge here and there.

Anyone should be able to paddle this stretch. Keep in mind though it is a full day of paddling when you do some exploring. Most of the land along this stretch is privately owned so respect their rights. The take out at Zoar National Forest is public and has a nice take out. The park has a trail or two and has plenty of parking. Just down river a few miles is Aylett, VA. Just above Aylett, the river becomes tidal so plan accordingly.


Rt. 360 to Rt. 600 North you will pass by take out at Zoar with in a few miles. Continue on to Rt. 628 for put-in


Topo map from MapCard

  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip