By JoEllen Santulli,
Virginia Outdoor Center

The Rappahannock River is a treasure trove of outdoor adventures. There are great trips for paddlers of all skill levels this spring and summer. If you’re brand new to river adventures, you need to try out one of these day trips first. And if you’ve never done an overnight trip on the Rappahannock, make it happen this summer!

City Dock to Old Mill Park (2-4 miles / 1-3 hours)
A Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) is the perfect vessel to enjoy this stretch of the river, especially for those hot and humid days so common in Virginia. Since this stretch is on the tidal section, it has no rapids and is completely flat water. You can leisurely paddle up from City Dock toward Old Mill Park and plop into the river whenever you want to cool off. There are plenty of sandbars along the way to stow your SUP and enjoy a picnic lunch. You’ll also get to see the river side of historic Fredericksburg homes lining Sophia Street. This trip is perfect when you only have a couple of hours to spare, since you can return to City Dock whenever you’re ready.

How to make it happen: Park easily at City Dock off of Sophia Street in downtown Fredericksburg. Use the boat launch and paddle upriver, towards the train bridge. You can paddle all the way up to Old Mill Park or turn back whenever you’re ready.
Things to remember: Keep an eye on the tides! It’s much harder to the do this trip when the tide is going out, since you’ll be paddling against the tide and the current.

Hole in the Wall to Mott’s Landing (6 miles / 3-5 hours)
This trip is an easy way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You’ll paddle through completely undeveloped sections of the river and feel as if you have the whole world to yourself. There are small, Class I rapids on this section, which are the perfect introduction to rapids for the beginner paddler. Along the way, there are deep holes that are perfect for swimming.

How to do it: Hole in the Wall is a private put-in and accessible only through the Virginia Outdoor Center (VOC). You can rent a canoe or kayak or have your private boat shuttled by VOC.
Things to remember: Bring plenty of water to drink, lunch and be sure to have proper footwear.

Ely’s Ford to Mott’s Landing (15 miles / overnight trip)
This trip starts on the Rapidan River and then goes through the confluence where the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers join. On this trip, you’ll enjoy even longer stretches of undeveloped river. There’s plenty of wildlife, and there’s a good chance you’ll see bald eagles. Thanks to the conservation easement, there’s plenty of camping available. Unless you see a private property sign, you can set up camp there.

This trip is best run in May, June, and early July, when water levels are most ideal for paddling through the confluence. As the summer goes on, lack of rain reduces water levels, which turn the confluence into a rock garden that can be challenging to get through.

How to do it: Besides getting all your camping gear in order, you’ll need to either stage a vehicle at the end or arrange a shuttle from a friend. If you’re parking a vehicle at Ely’s, you’ll need to have a vehicle ready at Mott’s to help get back to your car at Ely’s.
Things to remember: In addition to waterproof containers for all your gear, be sure to bring rope to tie down your gear. On the small chance you turn your boat over, it’s always a bummer when you have to chase down all your possessions in the river.

JoEllen Santulli works at the Virginia Outdoor Center and is happy to help people plan their river trips on the Rappahannock. Check out the trips they offer at or call 540-371-5085

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