Tye River


You couldn’t ask for anything more than the Tye.  This river is absolutely beautiful, cutting through the foothills of the Blue Ridge past through some of the prettiest little valleys in the state.  The upper portions of the Tye have breathtaking views of The Priest and Three Ridges mountains.  Farther down the Tye cuts through very dramatic ridges in a little gorge, and the farmland is pretty the whole way.  The river banks are very low, not hardly eroded at all.  There is no sprawling development or McMansions. (A big thanks to the Nelson County Board of Supervisors!).

The upper part of the river is pretty rapidy; down further the rapids are easy.  The Tye joins the James at Norwood, about a mile upstream of Cunningham Island and 3 miles upstream of Wingina.  Higher up the Tye is only runnable after a rain; down below Massies Mill or Hwy 29 it may be runnable in spring, depending on how wet a spring its been and your tolerance for scrapey trips.

Recommended Trips:

  • (overnighter): Put in at Massies Mill and take out at Wingina on the James.  This is a very full two day trip, perhaps the most fun, scenic two day trip on a mid size river in any part of central Virginia, with outstanding views, fun little rapids, and amazing topographic variety.
  • (day trip) Appalachian Trail (or higher) to Massies Mill.  This is a fun class 2+ run when there’s been some rain.  Usually there isn’t enough water, so catch it while it is up.  If you can’t see too many rocks from the AT bridge over the Tye, there is enough water.  Definitely have flotation in your boat and be ready for constant activity.  This only takes an hour and a half or so.
  • (day trip) Appalachian Trail to Rose Hill Rd (or Gulf Ford).  This is a 2/3 of a day trip for higher water levels.  If going to Gulf Ford you need high water levels and a full day, but that would be probably the best day trip in the state that I’m aware of.
  • (day trip) Rose Hill to Gulf Ford Road. This is a 2/3 of a day trip with beautiful scenery, including the confluence with the Piney and the gorge at the end of the trip.  You don’t need to go immediately after a rain to catch this one.


Directions to Put Ins and Take Outs:

View Tye River in a larger map

Appalachian Trail: There is a parking area where the AT crosses Rt 56.  From there carry down to the Tye and put in right below the AT foot bridge.  There are numerous put ins higher up if you want to check them out and there’s enough water.

Massies Mill: There is a little roadside park where you can put in off Rt 56.  This and the AT put in are west of the intersection of 56 and Rt 151.

Rt151/56 intersection: There is parking/access along the side of 56 just west of 151.

Rose Hill Rd: This is an unofficial takeout just a couple miles west of 29 on Rose Hill Road.  Be discreet putting in and taking out, which is a pain with the steep slopes, but this can be a convenient take out/put in depending on which section you want to run.

Rt 29: You can drive down a grassy hill (fairly steep) from Hwy 20 on the south side of the river, east side of the road, just above the little old dam.  Parking here is questionable.  If you want to take out near 29 it is better to drive down Tye River Road, which intersects Rt 29 just north of the river, to a little takeout near the Tye River Road bridge over the Tye.

Gulf Ford Road: From Tye River Rd take Gulf Ford Rd (perhaps also called Falling Rock Rd) north until you reach the 1 lane bridge.  There is a little unofficial, though unposted, take out to the west of the road on the south bank of the river.   Park on the roadside.  I’ve never seen a car ticketed here, just make sure you’re not poking out in the road.  Note that the road down to this bridge is very narrow and fairly steep, not a good place to drive in snowy or icy conditions.

Wingina: Where Rt 56 crosses the James, about 3 miles downstream of the Tye/James confluence.

Sections of River to Run:

Appalachian Trail to Massies Mill: This is very fast, very rocky, very narrow, almost constant class 2+ whitewater.  Make sure you have some experience before canoeing this, and have a throw bag with you.  Definitely have flotation in your boat.  Check carefully for strainers, ie don’t run blind turns; the river is narrow enough that a fallen tree could create a dangerous strainer, although I’ve never encountered one.  This is a great deal of fun, and runnable in a canoe where the forks of the Tye probably aren’t.  Bring a bailer and be prepared to eddy out frequently to dump out the water.  The views are great if you get a second to check them out, particularly looking back at the Priest and Three Ridges.  There are also nice old farmhouses.  This stretch only takes an hour or so.

Massies Mill to 151/56 intersection: This is class 1 whitewater, mainly ledges and gravel bars, with unbelievable views of the Blue Ridge.  This run takes just an hour or so.

Rt 151/56 to Rose Hill: More beautiful views and fun little rapids, nice farmland, probably about 3 hours to run.  You’ll go under the Rt 56 bridge about halfway through this one.

Rose Hill Road to Tye River Road: Another outstanding section of river with frequent small rapids, including the lovely confluence with the Piney River.  Thanks to those invovled in removing the old dam from this section.  After the old dam site you’ll go through some fun little rapids with cliffs to your right before going under a high railroad trestle, then under Tye River Road.  The takeout is a little sandy patch on your left.  This stretch would take about a half day.

Tye River Road to Gulf Ford: This is the prettiest stretch after the upper part, cutting through an extraordinary gorge near Gulf Ford.  The rapids are a little bigger than on the stretch from Massies Mill to Tye River Road.  This takes a couple hours.

Gulf Ford to Wingina: This is about a half day trip with some small rapids.  The Tye flattens out quite a bit after leaving the gorge near Gulf Ford.

Additional information