Rockfish River

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The North and South Forks of the Rockfish join near Route 6 in Nelson County about a mile or so east of Route 151.  From the confluence the Rockfish flows southeast through several ridges to join the James at Howardsville, on the border of Nelson and Albemarle Counties.  Considering the surrounding topography, the Rockfish is a fairly peaceful river, no more than class 2 before Schuyler.  The scenery is pretty, particularly because the Rockfish is tiny; travelers will have intimate views of all the grasses, flowers and trees along the way.  Some portions of the Rockfish are quite remote while others are alongside small roads.  There is no sprawl to speak of.  This is a nice trip that is convenient for folks near Charlottesville.

Recommended Trips:

  • (daytrip) Confluence to Rockfish River Road near Schuyler.  This is a long day trip that should be running in winter, spring, and perhaps early summer depending on recent rains.
  • (daytrip) Schulyer to James (Howardsville).  8-10 miles

Directions to Put Ins and Take Outs:

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Confluence: The best option is to put in on the North Fork where Rt 6 crosses it, about a mile east of the Rt 6/Rt 151 intersection. If there isn’t enough water there you could try to put in slightly further east, where Rt 6 parallels the river right near the confluence.

Route 29: There is a high quality official put in on the north side of the river, east side of the road where 29 crosses the Rockfish, at the hamlet of Woods Mill.

Rockfish River Road/Rt 617  above Schuyler: Rockfish River Road parallels the river for a long way, at some points closer to and at some points farther from the river. There is a decent unofficial put in between the Laurel Road bridge (the narrow older bridge at the eastern end of the section of Rockfish River Road that runs right alongside the river) and Schuyler. Coming from Schuyler, you’ll leave the river, go over a forested ridge, then come back down the ridge. After passing a home or two on your left there’s a field on the left, where the river is visible from the road. This can serve as a take out. Shortly thereafter the road leaves the river before rejoining it at the Laurel crossing.

Schuyler: Follow Rockfish River Road/Rt 617 east out of Schuyler; there are a few good unofficial put ins just a couple hundred yards east of the Rt 800/Rt 617 intersection.
Howardsville: Take out at the public boat landing on the James, just downstream of the Rockfish/James confluence.

Sections of River to Run:

Confluence to Rt 29: The Rockfish is tiny up here, particularly near the confluence. It parallels Rt 6, but is not very close to it for most of the way. This trip takes a few hours at middling water levels. If you like little jungly rivers with hills this is a nice stretch. Rapids are small.

Rt 29 to Schuyler: The river widens to about Tye width, has a few little ledges and one small, decrepit dam with a questionably runnable slot on the left. Rockfish River Road parallels the river closely for about half of this stretch; although it is the least remote part, it is still quite pretty. Rapids are small, a few little ledges. Do not forget that there is a 30 foot or so dam in Schuyler, so take out along Rt 617 before the dam. There does not appear to be a good portage route.

Schuyler to James: This is an attractive stretch of river that goes around a very long bend with attractive bluffs on the left. There are no hazards or large rapids, although there are one or two class two drops at medium water levels. This trip takes approximately 5 or 6 hours if traveling at a leisurely pace; the velocity is fairly low. This stretch of river can be run whenever the gauge on the Tye is at 110 to 120 cfs, or when the Rockfish is at 85 to 90 cfs. There is plenty of good camping.


Additional information