Nottoway River


The Nottoway has a vast watershed, draining much of southside.  It has one of the more abrupt fall lines in the state, where the river pours over several large sloping falls in rapid succession.  Below the falls it runs south past Courtland before joining the Blackwater and continuing into North Carolina.  Although it is not as swampy for as great a percentage of its length as the Blackwater, it has impressive cypress groves near Courtland, despite continuing and intense logging that in some cases extends up to the riverbank.  Because the Nottoway has more volume than the adjacent Blackwater, it has a defined channel that is separated from the swampy backwater by a berm of built-up sediments.  The best views on the Nottoway come from walking around the backwater areas, so be sure to plan short days that allow for plenty of swamp exploration.  In drier conditions it is possible to walk around much of the swamp, but if you visit after snowmelt or rain bring waders if you plan on traversing the swamp.  The Nottoway has the highest concentration of hunting activity I’ve seen in Virginia, so wear ample blaze orange at all times during the season.

Recommended Trips:

  • (overnight) Carys Bridge Road to Old Bridge Road
  • (day trip) Courtland to Old Bridge Road

Directions to Put Ins and Take Outs:

View Nottoway River in a larger map

Cary’s Bridge Road/Rt 653: From Richmond, take I95 south to the Rt 35/Rt 156 exit, which is the second exit south of the I95/I295 junction south of Richmond.  Follow Rt 35/Jerusalem Plank Road for a half hour; turn right on Rt 653, turn right to public put in on the west side of the river.

Courtland: There is no public put in evident from where Rt 35 crosses the river, so park and put in behind a church a few blocks south of the Business 58/Rt 35 put in.  This is in downtown Courtland.  The river and swamp behind it will be barely visible from the road.  The parking situation is questionable.

Old Bridge Road/Rt 747: Rt 747/Old Bridge Road extends south from Rt 58 Business at the southern end of Courtland, crosses Rt 58, and proceeds for approximately 2 miles until it deadends at a public takeout where you can see pillars from an old bridge.  Turn onto Rt 747 either from Bus 58 or from Rt 58 approximately 150 yards west of the Rt 58/Bus 58 traffic light.

Sections of River to Run:

Carys Bridge Road to Courtland: The Nottoway is roughly 40 feet wide for this stretch of river, with a mix of bald cypresses, tupelos, and upland pines and hardwoods on the banks.  The river follows a clearly defined, relatively shallow, sandy bottomed channel bounded by silt berms.  In some areas there is swampy backwater to explore.  Good campsites line the riverbanks, and almost none of the land is posted.  Most of the forest is relatively young, with the exception of some early middle aged cypresses at the water’s edge.

Courtland to Old Bridge Road: The river makes a giant S turn south of Courtland, with extensive swamp on either side.  The forest around the river varies, with some new growth thickets and some extraordinarily beautiful cypress groves.  This is a great section to get out of the boat and explore.  The largest tree in Virginia, a 12 foot diameter cypress over 1,500 years old, is supposed to live around here, although I did not see it when I went through.  There is a nice grove of cypresses just north of the Rt 58 bridge (which you go under some 3 miles or so before the takeout) on river left.  This grove has spectacular hollow trees with cavities big enough for a person to lie down in.  Most of this section of river is very remote, and there is plenty of good camping.  The takout is evident because of 3 or 4 old rusting bridge abutments.

Additional information