A float trip on one of the Shenandoah Valley’s scenic rivers is a summer dream come true. Any sunny day between mid-April to mid-October can be ideal to settle into a canoe or kayak and dip a paddle into the water.
Where To Get Your Float On
If you happen to be in the extreme northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, it’s easy to get on the historic Potomac River in or around Harpers Ferry. The view of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers is about as dramatic a photo op as you’ll find on the East Coast.
Front Royal Outdoors offers self-guided canoe, kayak, raft, and tube trips on the legendary South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Specialty fishing kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are also available.
Shenandoah River Outfitters in Luray is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Probably no outfitter knows the Shenandoah River better. They will shuttle you a designated distance upriver, and you can float back at your own pace. Choose from canoes, kayaks, rafts, or tubes. Reservations must be made online and all are encouraged to book early.
Just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, downtown Waynesboro is home to the Waynesboro Water Trail. The Water Trail is a four-mile stretch of the South River with easy put-in points; start at Ridgeview Park and paddle down to Basic Park. Exit points in between allow for shorter trips should you desire. Expect Class I and II rapids, and see the city from an unusual perspective.
Both the James River and the Maury River are easily accessible from Lexington in Rockbridge County; either makes an excellent base for a trip. Of all the rivers in the Shenandoah Valley, the Maury may well be the most—let’s say thrilling. Goshen Pass on the Maury is particularly exhilarating– a six-mile stretch with class II to class IV rapids. You need some serious experience to navigate this section of the river.
On the James, Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan has been in business since 1978. They offer numerous trip options on the Upper James—excursions can be four hours (about nine miles) or two to five days complete with “glamping sites.” Book your trip right on their website or call them at 540-254-8012. Another outfitter on the James is the Wilderness Canoe Company in Natural Bridge Station. Shuttles, canoe/kayak rentals, and other services are provided. A breakdown of popular trips, public access points, and difficulty ratings on the James and the Maury may be found here.
There are numerous outdoor businesses in the Valley to give you advice, help you select gear, and assist with planning trips. Rockfish Gap Outfitters — 540-943-1461 in Waynesboro; Wilderness Adventures at Eagle Landing—540-864-6792 in New Castle; and Walkabout Outfitters in Harrisonburg—540-434-9900 and Lexington – 540-464-4453 are just a few to query.
So when you are ready to go lazing on a sunny summer afternoon, we hope you’ll find your flow in the Shenandoah Valley.