If you live in the Lynchburg area for any amount of time, you know floating the James River isn’t just a hobby, it’s a must-have experience! People from all over Virginia brave the chilly waters from early June until late August each summer. Whether kayaking, tubing, paddle-boarding or canoeing, this 348 mile waterway is bound to take your breath away while leaving you with memories that will not fade with your summer tan!
What you’ll need:
Kayak, paddle-board, inner tube, or canoe. Something you can float in/on for a few hours.
Note: If it’s rained recently this means higher water and a faster current. No/little rain means lower water (more likely to bump rocks along the way).
Be sure to bring a pump if you have a large tube to inflate!
2 or more cars. You and your group will want to leave a car at both the entrance and exit locations as they are often several miles apart.
A plastic/waterproof bag for the supplies listed below.
Water! It takes a few hours to float even 3 miles, stay hydrated.
Sunscreen. You’ll be in direct sunlight for the duration of your journey.
Water shoes… I know everyone thinks these are lame, but when you get out of the river and hike/walk back to your car, your feet will encounter rocks, sticks and critters. Be prepared (Old sneakers, athletic sandals will also suffice).
Brightly colored bandana (red, yellow, orange).
Cell phone (I recommend placing it in two sealed plastic bags inside a waterproof container).
Carabiners! These are great to attach shoes, a cooler, etc. to your floatation device.
Sunglasses you won’t miss if you topple over in rough waters.
For children/mediocre swimmers: Life-vest. There are a few rapids along the way.
MAKE A PLAN:
You must plan ahead and choose your entrance and exit site. Click here for a list of entrance and exit locations.
Make sure your entrance and exit spots don’t have a dam in between them.
For your first time, when you arrive at the exit site, walk down to the bank of the river and ensure this is a location you are comfortable hiking/walking after you float. Tie that brightly colored bandana listed above to a sturdy tree, clearly visible on the river bank, this is how you’ll know when it’s time for you to get out of the river. Take note of the surroundings (after a few hours of floating, everything starts to look the same).
Don’t go alone, it’s more fun with a group and it’s safer too!
Be sure to take keys for BOTH cars with you in a sealed carrier on the water.
Know that parts of the river are more turbulent, this is not ideal for children or less experienced swimmers.
Floating the James is a summer highlight for Virginia locals and visitors. You’ll be sure to see beautiful plant and wildlife as well as gorgeous mountainsides. Whatever your summer plans, be sure to include a day on the James!
For more information of fun things to do in the area, keep an eye on Lynchburg’s Finest blog!
Written by Anna Cribb