your paddlesports destination

Upper James River Water Trail in Virginia

Trip Overview

Our group of 8 kayakers paddled the section from Buchanan to Alpine, having run three sections upriver on an earlier trip (see that report in Places to Paddle as well). There are a couple of quarries in the first few minutes of the trip - loud! - but once past them there is peace and beautiful scenery, along with an occasional train.

Nice Class 1 riffles and a few easy Class 2 Rapids made for a really nice trip. Saw lots of waterfowl, a blue heron, and a bald eagle too! This stretch took us about 4 hours at a leisurely pace with a nice stop for lunch.

Let me note that our paddle group is composed of folks in their 50's, 60's, and 70's with varying degrees of fitness. We are all experienced paddlers on mild whitewater; however, this part of the water trail would be suitable for most everyone at reasonable water levels.

Botetourt County is to be commended on their water trail project. Their website makes for easy planning, and the put-ins are clearly marked and well-maintained.


Buchanan's ramp is part of a town park, with several restaurants nearby. It is also next to Twin River Outfitters, which has canoes and kayaks for rent. These are great folks who will provide guided trips and shuttle service. Two of our group rented boats from them this trip, very accommodating and easy to work with.

About 10 miles south on I-81 is Daleville, with hotels and more restaurants. This town is on US Route 220, which is the primary shuttle route for the upriver sections of the trail.

Nice portajohns at the Alpine takeout.


Only if you want to fish.

Twin River provides overnight trips for those want to camp, most of the land along the River is privately owned - you might need permission to camp.


Buchanan is just off I-81 north of Roanoke. There is a detailed map at the boat ramp and on the UJRWT's website to find the takeout, which was a little tricky.


Buchanan Boat Landing


Website: Upper James River Water Trail

Twin River Outfitter

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

Locations on this Trip