Whitewater Rapids through a High-Rise City

Active & Adventurous - Let Me Out!

Richmond, Virginia's James River 

Virginia's James River stretches from the Allegheny Mountains in western Virginia through the Piedmont and Central Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay. Including its Jackson River source, the river stretches for 410 miles. Water sports are a natural along much of the way, as the river moves from a thin thread through slow-moving grandeur, through rapids and into a wide tidal river.

River City RaftThe city of Richmond owes its existence to the James River and its fall line, the geologic shift where the land drops from the plates of the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal plain. The James flows through the heart of Richmond's urban district over a seven-mile shelf of granite, dropping more than 100 feet over the fall line where it changes to tidal waters. The James is a very dynamic river and the river level is always changing due to rain fall.

As the James River flows through Central Virginia, it offers a very distinct sporting opportunity: to headquarter in a metropolitan area, and to travel downriver through the suburbs and city, while still enjoying class II-IV rapids.


As a Richmond resident for 30+ years, I've enjoyed the proximity of the James River. Besides taking in the view each time I cross one of the region's bridges, I've had the chance to hike, jog, bike, kayak, tube, sunbathe, picnic, bird watch, and just chill. Richmonders often enjoy free time along the river, thanks in part to The James River Park System, which provides 550 acres of shoreline and islands in the heart of the city, encompassing most of the fall line of the James, with rocks, rapids, meadows and wooded stretches: natural beauty in the heart of the city. The park system has paths, and even includes intriguing ruins on historical sites, marked with basic information. The Visitor Center schedules tours, programs, and activities all ages as well as volunteer opportunities for nature conservation and resource management projects. 

Besides sunbathing, picnicking, fishing and sunning on the boulders that are strewn near the shoreline and out into the river, Richmonders and their guests enjoy flatwater boating, powered by motors or paddles, and kayaking, rafting, and tubing. Two local outfitters provide guides and equipment to help boaters navigate the river, River City Rafting and Riverside Outfitters.

River City Rafting

River City Rafting LLC. in Richmond, Virginia focuses on “providing an exciting and safe whitewater experience on historic James River” through  guided whitewater rafting and tubing trips, including shuttle service to and from the river. Guides at River City Rafting LLC, they say, “have well over thirty years of experience guiding between them on The James River as well as other rivers across America like: The Ocoee, The Nantahala, The Cheat, The New, The Gauley, The Green, and The Colorado Rivers.”

River City Rafting offers a trip above the city's fall line, through easy class I-II rapids that are suited for families and first-time paddlers ages nine and up; a City Trip through downtown Richmond, which includes class III-IV rapids; and a trip that combines the two. They also offer guided tubing, for a calming float down the James and tube rentals.

Visit Richmond Virginia's River City Rafting online; at 100 Stockton Street, Richmond, VA 23224; call them at 804-232-RAFT; or e-mail reservations@rivercityraft.com.

Riverside Outfitters

Another local outfitters is Riverside Outfitters, for guided trips as well as rentals, plus recreational tree climbing, and camps. “Our Mission is to significantly and responsibly increase recreational use of the James River Park System by guiding outdoor experiences and inspiring a return to natural fun.”

Riverside Outfitters has canoes, kayaks, and rafts. They also provide wetsuits and cold weather gear for winter rafting at no additional charge.

Adventurers who don't want to get wet can go tree climbing with Riverside Outfitters – although the heights may inspire a bit of wet through sweat. Certified arborists and tree care experts help participants navigate safely upwards, with suggested climb sites at their favorite spots in the James River Park System with views of the James from high in the tree canopy.

Visit Richmond Virginia's Riverside Outfitters online; find them near the James's Pony Pasture Rapids at 6836 Old Westham Rd., Richmond, VA 23225; call 804-560-0068; or e-mail riversideoutfitters@yahoo.com.


Photo compliments of River City Rafting.




Virtual AWT




Mysterious Traub Video
A Perfect Travel Book