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Shenandoah River in Virginia

Trip Overview

South Fork of the Shenandoah River has been called the most beautiful stretch of river in the east. I may be a bit "partial" as we say down here, but for my money I would have to agree. The South Fork from Bentonville's low-water bridge to Front Royal landing is the perfect day trip. The river meanders thru 16 miles of rolling farmland, heavily wooded hillsides, towering bluffs and mountains, and more History than just about anywhere you can imagine. The Smallmouth and Sun-Perch fishing is unsurpassed, with 2 pound small mouths being regularly caught all along the length, and some even bigger. The Perch and sunfish fish bite well enough all the way down to keep the kiddies from being bored as well. Catfish and Carp can be found and get rather large in the deep holes if you have the courage and the equipment. They say there are muskies in the south fork, and I have heard people have caught them. But there never seems to be a picture or physical proof. Maybe you can be the one who proves their existence to me. This is a fairly flat river with a handful of short, lumpy areas (about class 2 max) but with excellent fishing both above and below these areas. Easily negotiated by the beginner, one of the things that makes the South Fork so ideal is that you're over only 2-3 feet of water most of the way places (and during dry periods) even less. So if you end up IN vs. ON the river, just stand up, pickup your gear and try again.

She has her deep holes of course so watch for them, usually found down stream of large rocks, on the inside of a sweeping bend, you know...the usual places. The south fork is bounded by private property most of the way down, except where the Shenandoah National Park comes down to the rivers edge and the A.Guest State Park. Most owners accept that that canoeists and Kayakers will stop on their property, so show your appreciation by taking out some extra trash...not just yours. You'll be sharing the river with "day-trippers" out of Washington DC and the surrounding areas. It can get pretty crowded some summer weekends. There are two excellent outfitters who both work that section. Either one will provide top-notch service and transportation. Front Royal Canoe Company is in Front Royal, and DownRiver Canoe Company is in Bentonville. Both use Old Town craft almost exclusively.


Front Royal has more motels than you can shake a stick at, (see? there's that Southern thing coming out.) in all price ranges...just pick one. The Motel 6 at the south end of town sits right on 340, so it's an easy start for the day.


The outfitters have fees and rental schedules of course and both have a website: Downriver Canoe in Bentonville

and Front Royal Canoe Company in Front Royal


I-66 West out of DC gets you Front Royal VA, the conflux of the two Forks of the Shenandoah. Go RT 340 South out of Front Royal to Bentonville and follow the signs to Downriver Outfitters and the put-in areas.


Put-in at Bentonville is at Downriver Outfitters and the low-water bridge across the south fork are there. The outfitter has a parking lot if you are using their transportation services, or there is a public lot, across the bridge at the public river access. Lock your vehicle at both places. Take out is either at Karo Landing (about halfway) our further down at Front Royal Landing, end of the full day. Parking is adequate at Front Royal, but kind of tight. I recommend you use the transportation provided by the outfitters. The take out is shallow and graveled, easily negotiated.

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

Locations on this Trip