Canoeing, Kayaking, and Paddle Boarding in Virginia’s River Realm

Sometimes the slower trip is the better one.

Photo by Chris M. Rogers

Sailboats, power boats, and cruising cabins may be the most popular on-the-water options, but human-powered excursions can provide the most intimate experiences. We selected this section from Chris Olson’s deep-dive exploration of many facets of the Rappahannock River and Virginia’s River Realm to help guide those water bugs who prefer a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe when they want to be on the water.

Kayaking & Canoeing

Discover the joy of a slower pace and reap the many fitness benefits of paddling your own vessel around the River Realm. Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster offers canoe and kayak rentals and boasts eight distinct wetland environments, which are home to a variety of animals. Park manager Katie Shepard says, “Belle Isle features 900 beautiful acres of peninsula and offers one of the few public access points to the lower Rappahannock,” as well as Mulberry and Deep creeks. The creeks’ protected shorelines and reduced motorboat traffic create quiet oases for wildlife and shoreline viewing. Plus, says Shephard, “The sunsets are just amazing! It’s my favorite part of being here.”

Jackson Creek, near Deltaville, is another great spot to explore on your kayak or stand up paddleboard. Look for coastal waterfowl while gliding over the smooth, sheltered waterways. Beach on the sandbar at low tide for a picnic and a chance to stretch your legs. Prefer watching people instead of birds? Paddling out of Jackson Creek from the Deltaville Marina is a stylish way to arrive at Groovin’ in the Park, the monthly summer concert series at the Deltaville Maritime Museum & Holly Point Nature Park ( 

To master a different kind of paddling—rowing sculls—consider booking a stay with Calm Waters Rowing in Lancaster (, for what might be the most unique vacation option in the realm. Run by two former U.S. National Team members who have won multiple international medals, this sculling training camp and vacation destination features a Georgian-style inn and world-class rowing instruction on a private millpond with no motorized traffic.

Tip: Want more itineraries? The Virginia Water Trails website ( is packed with ideas for paddling the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Eastern Shore.

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This article originally appeared in our April 2020 issue.

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