Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on James River near Snowden

Kurt Michael 000By Kurt Michael

Near the community of Snowden, Virginia, deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains, a road crosses over the James River. Alongside the roadway, the CSX railroad tracks run parallel to the river and then traverse the James on their way south to Lynchburg. See Map.James 826A few thousand feet from the Route 501 bridge is where the Appalachian Trail foot bridge crosses the James River high above the waters of the Cushaw Dam reservoir. At this place is the convergence of four modes of transportation: truck, train, foot, and stand up paddle board (SUP).

James 824I began my journey on a warm October day by paddling through a public access culvert under Route 501 to the river. Because of the low clearance, my stand up paddle board quickly became a sit-down paddle board until I reached the river.

Snowdan James River 073Downstream was the Virginia Power electrical plant and the Route 501 bridge, but I turned my paddle board upstream in search of rapids a little over one-and-a-half miles away.

Snowdan James River 064I floated under the railroad bridge and then the foot bridge.

Snowdan James River 004The Blue Ridge Mountains stood tall next to the river, dwarfing the cars, trucks, and trains that would occasionally rumble past.

Snowdan James River 012I set my sights on the large rocks in the distance that were peeking out of the water and continued to paddle in their direction.

Snowdan James River 019My paddle board glided past white washed rocks, their rough edges smoothed by the mighty James.

Snowdan James River 028Beyond the rocks was an island and, beyond the island, rapids.

Snowdan James River 041As I passed the island, the water became turbulent. I pushed forward fighting the fast-moving current.

Snowdan James River 042Reaching the rapids, I paddled to the tree-lined river bank where I took a brief rest and grabbed a quick drink from my water bottle while looking out over the mountains and enjoying autumn’s colors.

Snowdan James River 056Turning my board toward the river, I headed back into the rapids where I splashed around in the turbulent waters, paddling just hard enough to keep my paddle board in stationary motion.

Snowdan James River 059Finally, after a couple hours, I headed back down river, racing a train along the way.

Snowdan James River 061In the distance was an old wooden bridge lodged between the rocks. I speculated on its demise; had some by-gone flood knocked the bridge decking from its pillars, tossing it to a wet and stony grave?

Snowdan James River 062In the distance was the foot bridge, the train bridge, and beyond that the dam and Route 501 bridge.

Snowdan James River 081Then back to the low clearance culvert where my journey began, safely back at the boat ramp. It had been the perfect, sunny day for paddle boarding on the James River in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Snowdan James River 009

Snowdan James River 024

James 822

James 792

James 796

James 812

James 817

James 818

Read more SUP adventures from Kurt Michael:

Lake Anna (October 2014)
Rivanna River Reservoir, Charlottesville – September 2014
Beaver Creek Reservoir, Charlottesville – September 2014
Sherando Lake near Waynesboro – September 2014
York River, Yorktown – July 2014

More about SUP:

Surf Blue Ridge
Blue Ridge Outdoors


Photos by Kurt Michael
October 2014

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