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Rivanna River in Virginia

Trip Overview

My son and I canoed the Rivanna River from Darden Towe Memorial Park in Charlottesville, VA to the James River. The Rivanna is a pretty river, mostly high wooded banks and a few farms, even fewer homes.

We reached the takeout near Columbia, VA at 10:20 AM, 111 miles from home. The put-in, Darden Towe Park, is 35 miles from the take-out. We paddled away from the put-in about 11:30 AM, a late start for a trip of this length, about 34 river miles. The first day there were two rock gardens where we had to get out and walk the canoe. One source suggested running the rock gardens on the left. One drop was scouted from shore; we went up the middle of the drop. At 4PM we made camp, just before the rain started. The banks are very steep so that camping places were hard to find.

Sunday morning the land owner found us, he was not happy but he was not mean. The camping spots looked a little better further down the river than we camped, either just upstream or just downstream of Palmyra VA. Just after our lunch stop the rain poured down on us for a while. We had fuzzy rubber shorts on and that was enough to keep us warm.

The mouth of the Rivanna River is right across the James River from the take-out. At 3:30 PM we reached the takeout, a long day of paddling at my age. Dinner was had in Charlottesville at a pizza place, good pizza by the slice.

The town of Palmyra, VA is a good access point for two one day trips, either Charlottesville to Palmyra, or Palmyra to Columbia.

USGS river guage for Rivanna River at Palmyra, VA:
May 14 - Noon 3.29 ft 453 ft3/sec
May 15 - Noon 3.63 ft 698 ft3/sec.
Median for those days is 500 ft3/sec.
This is a good level, much more water and some of the drops would get pushy, much less water and some of the shallow areas would be hard to get through. Unfortunatly I have only one trip to judge by.


Lots of hotels are available around Charlottesville, not so much around Columbia.


One Old Town Tripper Canoe




Put-in river left at Darden Towe Memorial Park off of Elk Drive in Charlottesville. Nice put-in, plenty of parking, easy ramp to carry the canoe down to the river.

Take-out at river right of James River just across the river from Columbia VA. Nice take-out, plenty of parking, ramp to drive down to the river to load canoe.


Classic Virginia Rivers, by Ed Grove

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

Locations on this Trip