Rappahanock River

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The Rappahanock is the longest undammed river in the Commonwealth, thanks to Senator Warner, who removed the Embrey dam near Fredericksburg in the late 1990s.  Although development has marred much of the lower Rappahannock, above the fall line the river is in great shape, largely because the City of Fredericksburg owns a good deal of land along its banks, which it preserves to maintain the quality of the city’s drinking water.  You can put in at least as far upriver as Crest Hill Road in northern Fauquier/Rappahannock Counties.  Rapids are small until about 3 miles downriver of Remington, as the river cuts through the Piedmont with relatively little elevation change.  From below Remington through Fredericksburg the gradient is higher and the rapids are a little larger, particularly 3 miles below Remington, at the confluence with the Rapidan, and at the fall line.  The Rappahannock is at its most scenic from the first significant rapids below Remington to Motts Landing, which is just a few miles from Fredericksburg.  The paucity of road crossings is a blessing, as it minimizes the surrounding sprawl and keeps the river from getting too crowded.  Fishing is great, particularly smallmouth and fallfish.  The short run from Motts Landing to the park in Fredericksburg is a good short day trip, and has the largest rapids on the trip, although compared to the Potomac or James these fall line rapids are quite easy.

Recommended trips:

  • (1/2 day trip) Motts Run Landing to Fredericksburg
  • (overnighter) Remington or Kellys Ford to Motts Run Landing.  Only put in at Remington if you’re prepared for a very long overnighter or a short 3 day trip.
  • 4 days) Tapps Ford to Fredericksburg: This would be a good early summer trip if the water was high enough to run the upper portion.

Directions to Put Ins & Take Outs:

View Rappahannock River in a larger map

Crest Hill Road: From the east, on I66 take the westernmost exit for Marshall, turning south from exit ramp onto Free State Road.  Immediately take a right, going west, onto Crest Hill Rd.  Follow Crest Hill for about 25 minutes to the bridge over the Rappahannock From the west take Crest Hill west off of 522 in Flint Hill.  The Rappahannock is just a few minutes out of town.

Tapps Ford Road: Access via Crest Hill to north and Rt 211 to south.  Put in is on north side of river, on the east side of the road.

Remington: Put in on Business 29, unloading canoe on north side of river.  Then park in town of Remington, at commuter lot near the bank, which is a block to the northeast of the main intersection, near the railroad tracks.  Do not park along the road south of the river; an unruly owner lives there and will try to get your car towed.  He egged my car.  Fortunately the police in Culpeper are very understanding and do not tow reflexively.

Kellys Ford: This is located off Summerduck Road to the north and Kellys Ford/Edwards Shop Road to the south.

Motts Landing: From I95, take Rt 3 west, go about a mile through some sprawl, turn right on Bragg Rd, then go about a half mile and turn left on River Road, then proceed a couple miles west.  The public boat landing is on your right at the bottom of a hill.

Fredericksburg: There is a park downriver of the Rt 17 Business bridge that goes through downtown Fredericksburg.  It isn’t designed as a takeout, but can be used as one.  It is located off Sophia St in the city.  Use Fall Hill Avenue for the Motts Run/Fredericksburg trip.

Sections of River to Run:

Crest Hill Road to Tapps Ford: I haven’t run this section.

Tapps Ford Road to Route 211: This is a pretty 8 mile or so stretch of river, with nice rocks, riffles, and farmland, and no major rapids. There are plenty of campsites.  if you are putting in at night at Tapps Ford, proceed ½ mile and camp on river left, after getting past an ugly subdivision on the south bank.

Route 211 to Remington: This 25 mile or so stretch is a leisurely flatwater stretch with fields all around and relatively high banks.  The fishing probably isn’t too good.  The Hazel River, which appears to be bigger than the Rappahanock, joins it just a few miles above Remington.

Remington to Kellys Ford: This is about 4 miles, the first 3 of which are unremarkable.  The last mile, however, is beautiful and fun, with many rock gardens.  There are fish, even in the sandy bottom stretch.  The last mile is class 1-2 whitewater.  Tie in your gear if you’re camping.

Kellys Ford to Motts Run Landing: This is a remarkable 24 mile long stretch of river without a single road crossing or public put in.  The scenery is outstanding, as is the fishing.  There are plenty of camping opportunities, including at a lovely site located at the confluence of the Rappahanock and Rapidan, about 2/3 of the way through the trip.  The only significant rapids are those at the confluence, which are class 1 and 2 ledges and boulder gardens.  Be sure to look back at the confluence as you’re navigating the rapids.  It sure is pretty.  This is the best overnighter in central/northern Virginia in the summer, when smaller rivers are too low.

Motts Run Landing to Fredericksburg: This is a class 2 run with some challenging drops.  It resembles the James at the fall line, but not as difficult, with beautiful islands and river grasses.  The scenery is surprisingly good considering the nearby sprawl in Spotsylvania.  You’ll go under I95 and Rt 17 business before taking out on the left at a park, where the river bottom turns very sandy.  This trip has a wide variety of rock formations.  Be sure to say a prayer of thanks for the removal of Embrey Dam, which used to back up the river under I95.



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