The put-in was at the public boat ramp at the US Rt. 33 bridge. It had rained substantially for 3 to 4 days prior to the trip, therefore the water level at the bridge gauge was indicating 5.6 ft. The water was flowing at approximately 4 MPH, which is quite fast for this river. This trip is about 8 miles in length, with easy put-in and easy take-out. During late spring and summer, the river level is normally much lower at 1 ft or less. At the lower summer level, the water depth is typically 3 to 4 ft or less throughout the trip. At the higher water level of 5.6 ft (at the US Rt. 33 gauge), the typical depth exceeds 9+ feet throughout the trip.
Most of the trip was heavily wooded and high banks on river right. There are 12 to 15 houses along the river, with the larger estates on river left, situated high on the hills about 500 to 800 feet back from the river edge. The river was generally very clean, with little man made debris visible except for the occasional fishing lure or plastic bottle caught in the strainers. At this water level, the water was heavily colored with red clay.
All ledges and almost all rocks were completely submerged during this trip, although the river was substantially still within it normal banks. The normal rocks and ledges were transformed into standing waves trains of churning whitewater for much of the trip. Most islands were underwater. There was lots of wood debris floating down the river varying from small sticks to larger logs and limbs. Strainers caught much of the wood debris at various points along the trip. In several sections, the standing waves were numerous and up to 2ft high, which would crash over the bow of the canoes. Much of the trip consisted of continuous waves 6 inches or more in height.
For much of the first 6 miles of the trip all we had to do was steer and keep the canoe straight as very little paddling was required. The whitewater rapids sections were not highly technical although it did require that the canoes were kept parallel with the water flow. A few seconds of inattention during the rapids would have swamped the canoes in a fraction of a second. The flow rate was so fast that a capsized canoe or kayak might not be easily or quickly recovered.
The takeout is at the VA Rt. 54 bridge public boat ramp. There is a small dam about two hundred feet past the takeout. This dam was unrecognizable as the water flowing over it was so fast that it made only a small depression in the water at the submerged dam.
The trip was over in less than 2 hours. It is rare to get a chance to experience this type of very enjoyable whitewater in central Virginia. I would not recommend this trip at the 5.6ft water level to anyone who was a beginner or novice or someone who is not experienced with whitewater as one small mistake could result in spending a long time trying to catch up with your canoe or kayak downstream. At the 1 ft level, this is easily a beginner/novice river. We enjoyed the trip so much that we shuttled the vehicles and canoes and ran the river a second time on the same day.
Public boat ramp at both the put-in and take-out locations. No public restrooms or outhouses. Picnic table at the takeout.
The put-in is on US Rt 33 bridge boat ramp about 3.5 miles north of I295. Boat ramp is hand carry only at US Rt. 33. Not for trailers.
Delorme Virginia Atlas and Gazatteer.