Kayaking in Rappahannock, Virginia
Kayaking the Rappahannock River in autumn is an awe-inspiring way to view colorful foliage from the vantage point of the river. Canopies of gold, red and rust soar overhead, reflecting on the water all around you as lazy leaves drift downriver beside you.
Of course, the Rappahannock is scenic any time of year, from perfume-scented springtime trips decked in wildflowers to the verdant green of summer. Many stretches of the 184-mile river are suitable for beginners on downriver trips, but you’ll find a few areas to stop and play in the waves.
The Top of the River
Enjoy twisting curves and rock-garden rapids on the upper Rappahannock above Remington. Pack a picnic lunch and some snacks to enjoy a full day paddling the river in its creek-like beginning. The stretch rates as Class 1 to 2 on the International Scale of River Difficulty, but the unwary paddler could run into trouble with low-hanging branches or downed tree branches collecting in formations known as strainers.
A blind channel below Tapp’s Ford passes beneath a series of downed trees requiring quick maneuvering skills, but the 6-hour run is an ideal place to view wildlife and foliage close up.
From Slow to Go
Enjoy a pastoral scene as you drift lazily along 3 miles of flat water at the beginning of this journey downstream from the Route 29 bridge. After a gas pipeline passes overhead, the action picks up with a small ledge drop and a set of rock-garden rapids.
The largest rapids — Sandy Beach Rapids — sometimes exceeds Class 2 and the beach at the bottom of the rapids makes a good place to stop for a picnic. The rest of the trip has rock gardens and several rapids rated as Class 2 or less. A few minor Civil War battles took place along this stretch.
Embark on the river at Kellys Ford for a multi-day journey spanning 24 miles of river with few signs of civilization. The city of Fredericksburg owns much of the river and its shoreline, so bring a tent and set up where you like on city land using Leave No Trace techniques.
The river is fairly smooth, with a few rapids, including Class 2 at the confluence with Rapidan River. For a day trip, put your kayak on the Rapidan River at Elys Ford and enjoy Class 2 ledge drops en route to the confluence with the Rappahannock.
Pump up the Action
Take an exciting half-day trip with lots of gentle whitewater on a 4.5-mile segment of the river running from Motts Run to Fredericksburg. The trip kicks off with a segment through a remote gorge with a sprinkling of Class 1 to 2 riffles and rapids.
A little quick navigating is needed to avoid bridge pilings and large boulders as you exit the gorge and pass under Interstate 95; then a series of staircase Class 2 rapids brings you to the first spot to take out of the river just below the former Embry Dam.
Class 3 rapids lie below the dam and Old Mill Park, with technical drops and play waves on river right and straightforward lines through the rapids in the main flow.
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