Just west of the capital city of Richmond, VA, find escape into nature along the James as it runs between Goochland and Powhatan Counties and enjoy the pastoral landscapes and history of the the area.
Beginning at Maidens Landing at the Rt. 522 bridge and concluding at the Watkins Landing Boat Ramp on river right (Rt. 652) is a 13-mile scenic stretch of the James that makes a solid day trip which can be turned into an overnighter by the primitive camping enthusiast. The trip offers mild Class I-II whitewater, interesting historical sites, and fishing for smallmouth bass and flathead catfish.
The first portion of your float is through a long stretch of flatwater that almost becomes tedious before the relief of a river-wide ledge rapid formed by the remains of a dam that was once used to feed water into a canal system that connected into downtown Richmond. This rapid and the singular bridge just downriver mark the beginning of an interesting stretch where the James passes through the Powhatan Correctional Facility, formerly known as the State Farm Penal Institution. Established in 1894, this facility features a large working farm and many innovative programs and constructive activities to rehabilitate inmates. Don't be alarmed to see prisoners in pickups and vans crossing the river as they attend to their work assignments.
Downriver of this facility you will find good fishing and paddling as the James winds its way amongst several islands. Here is where you could choose to find a camp, or the average day-tripper will find the perfect picnic spot of their choosing. At the downstream end of the islands you find the river becoming suspiciously slow. You have now entered the 10-mile backwater of Bosher's Dam, the first intact dam downriver of Lynchburg, and the only intact river-wide dam on the James in the greater Richmond area, thanks to the long dedicated effort to improve fish passage and recreational enjoyment of this public resource. Where the flatwater begins, you are graciously only a couple miles from your takeout at Watkins Landing on river right. Downstream to the dam you will find only those things which fray the dear paddler's nerves-jet skis, ski boats, riverside mansions, and manicured lawns reaching right down to the river whose owners tend to be most proud and protective. Better to takeout at Watkins and call it a day.
James River Trip Resources
Guide to Trip Planning: http://www.jamesriverassociation.org/enjoy-the-james/overnight-camping
Find River Maps from JRA: http://www.jamesriverassociation.org/enjoy-the-james/james-river-maps
VDGIF Guide to Access Points: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/waterbodies/display.asp?id=158§ion=maps
Buy River Atlases of Historic Sites from VA Canals and Navigation Society: http://vacanals.org/store/
NOAA Hydrologic Prediction Service (River Levels): http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/?wfo=akq#
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