James River (Richmond, VA)
If you’ve been back to Richmond to soak up Civil War history on the battlefields, there’s a lot here worth a return visit. For one thing, it’s got a tasty new craft beer scene with over a dozen breweries (get the Trinken app for insider tips and deals for what’s on tap) and it’s the only urban setting in the country with Class IV and V rapids. The seven-mile James River is what’s kept Kayak Richmond ($28/two hour rental) owner Spence Waddell happy for over 20 years. His favorite whitewater kayak run is what’s known locally as the “Lower Section” (Reedy Creek to 14th Street) at 6′ on the Westham Gauge. “This run takes you right through the heart of Richmond, but you hardly ever notice the office buildings,” says Waddell. “I’d start off surfing at First Break, a nice Class II rapid with a couple of good surf waves. There is plenty of action (Class I and II) between First Break and Hollywood rapid, the first Class III rapid. After running through the flat water below Hollywood, we like to squirt into the eddy behind the old railroad bridge supports at Fish Ladders rapid (Class II) and finish up with a run through Pipeline rapid (a nice longer Class III at this level).” Unless you’re an avid kayaker, Waddell advises paddling the difficult sections with a local guide.
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