This February marks the 14th anniversary of the removal of the Embrey Dam, an act which turned the Rappahannock River into the longest free-flowing river in the eastern U.S.
The 22-foot-tall dam’s removal in 2004 transformed the ecology and the landscape of the Rappahannock. For the first time in over 150 years, migratory fish like American shad and striped bass gained access to spawning grounds in the upper Rappahannock and its tributaries. Non-migratory species like largemouth bass and channel catfish have moved upstream as well, enriching the river’s biomass and enthralling local anglers.
Since the dam blew, paddlers can now float unimpeded from the upper Rapp to its mouth instead of needing to portage at Fredericksburg. As an added bonus, the subsiding waters revealed an outdoor playground: a rock garden teeming with smallmouth bass, historic canal locks, a thrilling cascade of Class-2+ rapids, and an RV-sized jumping rock known affectionately as “BFR” (“big fat rock”).