Take Me to the River

The most idyllic waterways in the state are issuing their siren call to devoted kayakers and canoers to gear up and float awhile.

Rappahannock River

Much of the upper Rappahannock is under a conservation easement, so shoreline like that between Kelly’s Ford and Motts Run Landing (24 ½ miles) remains development-free. Access: At Kelly’s Ford, off Secondary Route 620. Take out at Motts Run Landing, river right off Route 618. Photo Op: Rapids form where the Rapidan enters the Rappahannock. Rentals: Virginia Outdoor Center, Fredericksburg. PlayVa.com

Maury River

The Maury flows past Appalachian mountain vistas in its upper section and valley farms in its lower portion, including the trip between Lexington and Ben Salem Wayside (7 ½ miles). Access: In Lexington, off Route 11 Business. Take out at Ben Salem Wayside, off Route 60 on river right. Photo Op: 50-foot-tall rock faces line the river. Rentals: Twin River Outfitters, Buchanan. CanoeVirginia.net

James River

After passing the community of Eagle Rock on the way to Narrow Passage (13 miles), day-trippers will see few signs of civilization except for the occasional farmhouse. Access: At Eagle Rock, off Route 220. Take out at Narrow Passage, off Route 43 on river left. Photo Op: Sycamores and silver maples create a lush canopy, and a forested mountainside rises on river right. Rentals: Twin River Outfitters, Buchanan. CanoeVirginia.net

New River

Known as Virginia’s premier smallmouth bass river, the New also offers one its most picturesque floats from Eggleston to Pembroke (6 miles). Access: In Eggleston, off Route 622. Take out in Pembroke, off Route 623 on river right. Photo Op: Palisade’s Cliffs, Caesar’s Arch, and Horseshoe Bend Cliffs—400-foot-tall sheer bluffs are the summertime haunts of red-tail hawks. Rentals: New River Outdoor Company, Pembroke. NewRiverOutdoorCo.com

Shenandoah River (South Fork)

The gentle current of the south fork of the Shenandoah, including the bucolic Port Republic to Island Ford stretch (10 miles), makes it the easiest major river in our state to paddle. Access: In Port Republic, off Route 955. Take out at Island Ford, river right off Route 642. Photo Op: Great blue herons and Louisiana water thrushes often dwell on willow-covered islets. Rentals: Shenandoah River Outfitters, Luray. Shenandoah-River.com

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