Throwback ‘Snowed Out’ Vid Highlights Paddlers in Winter

On this snow-covered Thursday, I thought I’d dig out a classic from our friend Hunter Davis at Home on the James. It was shot during a snow storm almost exactly two years ago and has been watched close to 150,000 times since then. Cue it up and find out why. These dudes are hardcore!

Click here for more from Davis and Home on the James.

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A Fall Paddle on Virginia’s Hidden ‘Dragon’

Similar to a golf course that has two distinct front and back nines, the fall kayaking trip down the Dragon Run is far different from the spring one. Yet both will leave you in awe and with a deep appreciation of all the waterway has to offer.

Friends of Dragon Run, a non-profit organization, has been offering spring paddles trips down the Dragon, about an hour east of Richmond, for more than a dozen years. With a limited number of spots available, they go quickly. In recent years, there have been more and more requests to add a fall trip. So this year, after a lot of hard work and exploration, a seven-day fall season was held in mid- to late October. And it was just as successful as the spring season.

The Dragon Run in Summer. Credit: Teta Kain

“We were fully booked before we had our first paddle (trip),” said Janice Moore, president of Friends of Dragon Run (FODR). “We did have some cancellations along the way … (but) we were able to fill every spot except for somebody who canceled late at night the night before.”

One day was lost to inclement weather, but the other days had the full complement of 12 paddlers plus guides. The spring trip took paddlers on a three-hour excursion covering 3.7 miles from the put-in at Big Island to the takeout at Mascot. The fall trip started at Mascot and ended about two hours and 2.2 miles later downstream at a takeout on private land.

“The normal trail that we use is clogged now with (vegetation), so we really can’t use that path,” Moore said. “We were trying to find an alternative trail.”

It is a much different trail as well. The first thing you notice is a deeper and wider waterway, thanks to its historic ties to the logging industry.

“When you got into the canal (at Mascot) it seems to be uniformly deep but that’s because the canal was gouged out by logging a long, long time ago, and some of that never (fills) back in,” Moore explained. “I think you’ll find a more consistent depth for the portion that’s in the canal.”

The physical characteristics of the river aren’t the only differences.

Bald cypress trees on the Dragon Run. Credit: Bay Journal

“Even the vegetation is a little different. We don’t have those great masses of polygonum that we have above Mascot,” said Teta Kain, a longtime paddle master on the trips whose only responsibility now is as a tour guide on the trips. “We only saw one or two places where they were flourishing below Mascot. And another (difference) was the marsh dewflower, which was not seen above Mascot but is below Mascot. It is a very different river.”

Much of that has to do with nature, itself. The water is getting colder so the animals aren’t as active, although there still are a number of beaver dams to navigate. Most of the birds have migrated so you won’t see or hear as many. (However, two bald eagles were spotted on a recent trip.) And some of the trees, including the ever-present cypress, are losing their leaves and changing color.

“The openness of it makes it a different trip as the leaves fall,” Kain said.

It’s not the same paddling experience either.

“It is a little more challenging,” Kain said. “It’s a little more difficult to find your way around. … Some of the obstructions were a little more challenging for the participants than they were up above (Mascot).”

Work on selecting the fall route began months ago. Moore said it took about 20 exploration trips on different parts of the Dragon from February through August to try to find the best possible put-in and a takeout. Robert Gibson, an FODR board member, offered the use of his land for the takeout, so it was decided to start at Mascot and travel south.

“We did (explore) north of Mascot too,” Moore said. “We couldn’t find anything with enough water or (that) wasn’t blocked by sub-aquatic vegetation or something else.”

Teta Kain leads a paddle trip on the Dragon Run.

Still, there was work to be done to make the waterway navigable. A crew of six, with chain saws, ladders and other tools, spent a day in early October clearing the way.

“The day we took the chain saws … I think we were there for eight hours,” Moore said. “If you can imagine being in water up to your chest and using a chain saw on these big logs, that’s what it was like. It was a lot of work.”

It all paid off, however, and FODR was able to show off a different portion of the waterway. And with the success of this year’s fall season, a fall paddling season could become an annual tradition.

“We think we might,” Moore said of having a fall season every year. “People loved it. And most of the people who went were repeats from spring trips … and they (said), ‘This is great. I love doing another part of the Dragon.’”

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Local Kayak Event to Raise Funds for RPS

Check out the story by in this morning’s Times-Dispatch about local middle schooler and avid kayaker Nathaniel Milligan. It’s a story that deserves a wider audience.

Milligan, a seventh grader at Richmond’s Albert H. Hill Middle School, has organized a series of kayak races this Saturday on the James River as a fundraiser for his and other Richmond Public Schools. You can find more details (and register) at the event’s Facebook page.

T-D reporter Justin Mattingly writes that Milligan has launched similar fundraisers in years past for his birthday, usually asking people to bring canned goods that he can donate to local food banks. But, “now he wants to combine his hobbies of kayaking and charity…”

His “Kayak for a Cause” event will take place at the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, and, in addition to raising money for RPS, participants are asked to bring canned goods.

Click here to read the T-D article. It’s a cool story about a local kid with a built-in sense of altruism beyond his years.

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6½ Helpful Hints When You’re Learning To Whitewater Kayak

Editors note: Home page photo credit Rich Young

If you have the opportunity to ask a veteran whitewater kayaker, “How did you learn to paddle whitewater?” there is a good chance that you will be entertained with a series of cringe worthy and poorly thought out river exploits that obviously skewed the statistics of any risk-management calculation. Yet, against all odds the person standing before you is in one piece, and according to them is grateful they joined the sport.

Hmm, you must be missing a piece of the picture, right? Right.

Kayakers approach the Pipeline Rapids in downtown Richmond.

Jilly and Billy “Against All Odds” Paddler are often the exception, not the rule.  For every I-tried-whitewater-kayaking-and-loved-it story, there are more I-tried-whitewater-kayaking-and-will-never-do-it-again stories.  It’s with that in mind that I’ve provided the following list, which aims to create more success stories that don’t have a sustained white knuckled trial by fire component to the whitewater learning curve.  So whether you are thinking about trying out whitewater kayaking for the first time or you’re a seasoned expert looking to mentor others, the list below should provide some food for thought.

1) Smile — There is a direct correlation between the how much you smile and how well you’ll paddle.  My worst blunders while paddling have all started with an overly serious face.  Even if you’re faking it, you’ll be surprised how many seemingly scary whitewater situations can be resolved with a big ol’ hollar and an ear-to-ear smile.

2) Don’t let someone you love teach you to paddle — Suppose your significant other or family member is a world renowned whitewater kayaker, and they teach people to paddle for a living, and you have the best relationship even, and really want to learn to paddle.  Do not let them teach you to paddle.   I assure you that they have a friend who will happily take you under their wing without the added potential of collateral damage when well intentioned instruction goes awry.  Paddling together is fine, even enjoyable, but the moment your mate starts dropping unsolicited teaching tips, paddle away, quickly.

A paddler plays in the wave at Z-Dam near Pony Pasture.

3) You don’t have to paddle harder rapids to advance your skills — With a little creative thinking you can take a class I or II rapid that you’ve long since mastered and turn it into something much more difficult.  When you abandon your “traditional line,” your eyes can be opened to endless new challenges.  You can weave through boulders,  limiting the number of paddle strokes you take, paddle the rapid backwards, try to paddle back up the rapid, link a series of turns together, and the list goes on.  By forcing this challenge upon yourself, you’re increasing skill competency without significantly increasing risk.

4) Take an actual paddling course — The school of hard knocks can teach you a lot, but taking a course with a professional whitewater kayak instructor will often hastily erase the mystery behind seemingly endless paddling techniques and  their application.  Sure it’s a few extra bucks, but it’s better than beating your head against the deck of a kayak in confused frustration.

5) You will swim — Every kayaker, even the best, are between swims.  Out of boat experiences are just part of being a paddler.  It’s easy to equate a swim with failure, but I see it as just another step in the learning curve and so should you.  Further concerns should be directed back to No. 1.

6) Paddle with other people — Aside from the obvious safety factor, paddling with a group gives you living classroom where tips are readily exchanged and support is inherent.  There are simply not enough whitewater paddlers in the world to be a snob about who you like or don’t like paddling with.  Every paddler on the water is worth cheering on and learning something from.

6½) Have the right gear and know how to use it — You might think that this goes without saying, but it’s pretty darn terrifying to learn whitewater kayaking if you’re in a recreational kayak using a sea kayaking paddle and wearing a spray skirt that you don’t know how to take off.  The five essentials of whitewater kayaking (boat, paddle, lifejacket, helmet, spray skirt) have been very intentionally designed and contrary to popular belief, can be acquired without spending an arm and a leg.  If you are unsure where to start see No. 4 and No. 6, most members of the paddle community are happy to outfit novice paddlers until they acquire their own five essentials.

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FOLAR to Host the 10th Annual ‘Paddle-or-Battle’

Paddlers on the Appomattox River near Petersburg. Credit: FOLAR

Registration is now open for the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River’s 10th Annual Paddle-or-Battle, an opportunity for a recreational paddle or a competitive race in a canoe, kayak, or SUP on the Appomattox River on September 30th.

The route begins at the Hopewell City Marina near the convergence with the James River and ends at Petersburg’s historic Pocahontas Island Park.

New this year is a shorter, Youth/Beginner 2-mile course, offering fun for every age and experience level.

The entire 10-mile route is flatwater in the tidal section of the river with some current. An incoming tide is expected for the event, which should aid paddlers. Buoys, mile markers, and guide boats will be out along the course.  Shuttles and trailers will return you and your boat from the finish to the Hopewell Marina. Extra shuttles and trailers have been added for faster return. Kayak rentals are available. Call 804-840-2757 to reserve.

First place racing awards will be given in four categories: Under-50 Male and Female and Over-50 Male and Female. Best time to beat is 1 hour, 39 minutes. Trophy presentation at the finish is at noon.

Paddling on the tidal Appomattox. Credit: FOLAR

All proceeds from this event will go to support the work of the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River to conserve and protect the Appomattox River for all to enjoy.

Advance registration is $25/adult and $15/under 18 and active-retired military. Day of event registration is $30/adult and $20 under 18 and active-retired military. Paddle or Battle registration includes an event T-shirt, continental breakfast in Hopewell as well as picnic lunch. Day of sign-in/registration starts at 8 a.m. Youth-Beginner and Leisure paddling starts at 9 a.m. Race starts at 10 a.m. Lunch and trophy activities are 11:30–1:30pm.

More information and online registration is available at, FOLAR-VA.ORG. For questions or kayak rental email to or call 804-840-2757 or 804-543-0325.

Major event support provided by Vulcan Materials, Virginia American Water, Appomattox River Soil and Water Conservation District, and Hopewell Recreation & Parks. Click here for more information.

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‘James River Splash and Dash’ Returns to Downtown RVA This Saturday

This Saturday Richmonders will once again take to the James River for the 7th Annual James River Splash & Dash, presented by Swedish Match and sponsored by Riverside Outfitters. The event, a fundraiser for the James River Association, features a one-of-a-kind 6k trail run or 1 mile walk on Belle Isle followed by an inner tube race across the James ending with a party at Historic Tredegar.
Participants should be ready to have fun, get wet, and navigate an uneven trail with obstacles of all kinds, including rocks, roots, and mud. An after party at the finish line includes performances by The Hot Seats and other local bands, beverages from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and local food trucks.
Racers age 10 and up are encouraged to participate. Registration is $50 per person, which includes an event t-shirt and beverage ticket. Team Registration is $250 for up to 10 participants.
Click here to register for the event or to learn more about the James River Splash & Dash. Registration ends Wednesday at midnight.
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James River Batteau Fest Bound for Goochland this Weekend

A bateau enters rapids on the James River. Credit:

If you want to see living history floating down the James River, head out to Maiden’s Landing in Goochland County (where Rt. 522 crosses the James River) this Sunday to watch the closing of the James River Batteau Festival.

Batteau were shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats used to move commercial goods on the James River (and many other North American rivers) starting in the Colonial period. The 32nd annual JRBF, which launched from Lynchburg’s Percival’s Island last Saturday, celebrates the boats and that manner of travel by sending batteau down the James on an eight-day journey toward Richmond. It’s quite a spectacle, one that terminates this year just a short drive (maybe 30-40 minutes) from downtown RVA.

Looking for something different to do with the kids? This is a great option — one that only happens once a year.

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‘James River Rundown’ to Test Paddlers’ Endurance

Registration is open for the James River Association’s James River Rundown, a series of paddling races on the America’s Founding River scheduled for June 24-25, 2017 in the heart of central Virginia.
A grueling 120-mile endurance race begins the morning of June 24 at Riveredge Park in Lynchburg and ends at Tucker Park in Goochland County the following day. The 120-mile race is one of the longest races of its kind on the East Coast. Competitors will navigate the James River in kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, either as solo paddlers or in teams. Designated checkpoints will be setup along the way offering paddlers opportunities to hydrate and rest during the event.
The 2017 James River Rundown also features a 50-mile race starting June 25 at James River Reeling & Rafting in Scottsville, a 25-mile race starting at Columbia Boat Landing in Columbia, Virginia, and a five-mile float starting at Powhatan State Park. All four races will culminate at Goochland County’s Tucker Park for a family-friendly post-race celebration featuring food, beverages, live music, and recreation programming offered by L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools.
“The James River Rundown showcases the beauty of the Middle James,” said Justin Doyle, Community Conservation Manager for the James River Association. “It’s an opportunity for folks from across Virginia and the United States to explore our wonderful river and support the James River Association.”
The James River Rundown is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series Event, presented nationally by Toyota and benefiting the Upper and Lower James Riverkeepers. Additional support is provided by Huguenot Trail Rotary Club, L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, Mid-Atlantic Paddler’s Association, James River Reeling & Rafting, and RVA Paddlesports.
Click here to learn more.
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Riverrock Updates: Event Just One Week Away

Dominion Riverrock and Flo Sports yesterday announced a partnership to stream the Dominion Riverrock bouldering competition live online at during the May 19-21 festival. This marks the first time that any Riverrock competition has been made available for livestream and will bring the excitement of the bouldering competition, featuring some of the top climbers in the country, directly to spectators across the U.S. and around the globe.

A slackline over the Kanawha Canal at Dominion Riverrock. Credit: Venture Richmond

“Dominion Riverrock offers a visually unique and exciting climbing competition taking  place at one of the premier outdoor sports and music festivals in the country, and we are thrilled about our new partnership,”  said Jordan Shipman, General Manager of Flo Climbing. “The event will be streamed live for the first time on, and we are looking forward to bringing this competition to an even larger audience of climbing fans!”

Men’s and women’s Bouldering qualifying and finals will be held Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, and the Speed Competition follows on Sunday, May 21. All events take place on a custom-built 20-foot cage constructed specifically for Dominion Riverrock that offers a unique test of speed, agility, and physical and mental strength. Top competitors for this year’s event include Kai Lightner, Nathaniel Coleman, Kyra Condie, and Brooke Raboutou, among others.

In other Riverrock news: 

To help kick off the 2017 Riverrock, Red Bull Media House will screen a premier of the film ‘Blood Road’ at the Byrd Theater at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 18. The film chronicles mountain bike champion Rebecca Rusch’s journey as she rides the 1,200 miles of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the spot where her father crashed and died during the Vietnam War. Rusch, a Red Bull athlete known as ‘The Queen of pain with a heart of gold’ for her epic performances and adventures around the world, will be in attendance for the premier and will participate in a Q&A session with the audience following the screening. The session will be moderated by Jeff Lenosky, a world class freeride and mountain bike rider who coordinates the Freestyle Bikes competition during Dominion Riverrock and also competes in the Urban Assault mountain bike race during the festival. The screening is free and open to the public, and Rusch will be available for media interviews following the Q&A session.

Prior to the screening, Lenosky and Rusch will lead a pre-ride of the Urban Assault course at noon on May 18. This will be a great opportunity for riders to preview the course, which takes place on the trails in the James River Park System, and learn a few expert tips and tricks from accomplished athletes like Rusch and Lenosky. The course preview ride is free and will start and finish in the Belle Isle parking lot.

Participants Finalized for ‘RVA Plein Air Paint Off’

The field of local artists for the first-ever RVA Plein Air Paint Off at Dominion Riverrock is set and includes some of the area’s best known artists, muralists, and designers. The 10 artists scheduled to take part are Ed Trask, Hamilton Glass, Nico Cathcart, Matt Lively, Amy Swift, Greig Leach, Linda Hollett-Bazouzi, Vincente Gonzalez, Mickael Broth, and Andras Bality.

During the paint off, set for Saturday, May 20 at noon, the artists will have four hours to create a work of art that will be judged and showcased before being made available for sale on Sunday, May 21. The sale is open to the public and will take place from noon-4 p.m. in the brick courtyard at Historic Tredegar.

While the challenge is taking place, the artists will be scattered all over the festival grounds, creating plenty of viewing opportunities to see the competitors at work as their paintings come to life. A canvas size of 30″x40″ for all competitors will create an additional challenge for the artists during the time window, as most plein air painters work on a much smaller scale. With diverse styles and processes, the paint-off promises to be thrilling, inspirational, and educational all at the same time and will present a unique challenge to participating artists. Dominion Riverrock is partnering with Glave Kocen Gallery for the paint-off event.

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Must See Video: “Outdoors in the City”

Christian Wood just sent us this sweet video highlighting some of Richmond’s most popular outdoor pursuits — whitewater kayaking, mountain biking and rock climbing. It’s the kind of clip that makes you look out the window, check the weather and think hard about whether you want to take a half day off from work. (The answer is yes, you should.)

Nice work, Christian!

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