The Rivanna – our river

Come on in. The water’s fine.

How fortunate we are to have the Rivanna within our borders. A powerful natural resource, it provides water for countless farmers, drinking water for Charlottesville and Albemarle, and an incredible untapped resource for recreation and economic benefits of outdoor tourism.

Leo and I were fortunate to paddle on Saturday, April 10, 13 miles from the south fork reservoir dam to Milton. This was the first leg of the third annual Rivanna sojourn, organized by the Rivanna Conservation Society and sponsored by Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, Charlottesville, Albemarle and Fluvanna Counties.

As a beginning paddler, learning to read the currents and rapids and watch for rocks was a challenge. But the view of city and of our rural areas from the water was a remarkable perspective. We were escorted by a heron from the North Fork junction almost to Key West. We heard red tail and broad wing hawks cry overhead, saw kingfishers fishing and turtles basking in the sun.

Along the way paddlers shared history, of the Monacans who lived along the river, of the mills whose races are still visible, of the locks and side loops which bypassed each of the rapids, of the electric trolley power plant now abandoned at the foot of Monticello mountain. We passed Secretary’s Ford, which was the connection from Monticello to Shadwell and the farm and river entrance to Monticello.

As a native of Albemarle, I should have known this before.

As governments, the city and county should focus more attention on the river and work on ways for individuals and groups to get access to the river. If the value of the river is mentioned in our comprehensive plans, that would be a good first step.

Why drive to West Virginia when you can ride great rapids and spend a day paddling right here at home?

The third leg of the Rivanna Sojourn, from Palmyra to Bremo and the James, will be on April 17th. Contact RCS at for information.