A cast of thousands paddled the Rappahannock Fall Line at Fredericksburg today. Well, 16 actually. Meeting at Old Mill Park at noon, we divided into two groups to make the trip more manageable.
The tortoises, Wes M, Glen J, Jon H, Gus A, John S, and, of course, Jim Long. moseyed down the river, enjoying a stretch of river not called Potomac after the difficult 2020 season. This was a carefree group, playing chutes and waves. Some of our group ran the tight combination on river right leading to Target Rock. Some followed the bigger water river center.
The hares, Bob Gramann, Wayne McD, Tim T, Marilyn J, Gary & Ginny Q, Bruce C, Larry L, Cotton, and Alf C., mainly took the center chute at the I-95 site and the "Back Channel" (left) route around Lauck's Island at the end. !,800 cfs - at triple the minimum, is a fine level, not difficult. There was some interest in running the river at 3.5-4’. Both groups reached Old Mill Park take-out within fifteen minutes of each other. Those driving home early encountered little delay on I-95, arriving home about 6 PM. A select group dined outside at Basilico Deli a few minutes from the takeout. The chicken piccata was highly recommended. Post PM rush hour traffic was light.
At the Motts Landing put-in, the beloved seal launch chute into the Rappahannock is now partially blocked by a mudbank. Some carried down the steps to put in, while others used an informal beaver slide just upstream from the parking lot. In the doldrums of summer, the mud-bank at Motts Slide could be the object of a work-party - maybe coupled with a repeat visit to the Basilico Deli.
Virginia is building two new bridges between the existing twin spans of I-95. They built a heavy-duty road of rip rap and gravel across the river about 12' above water level for the cranes and equipment working on construction. Three massive I-beam bridges over 20’ wide chutes allow the river to flow through the site. We were briefed on the details by Bob Gramann, a regular there, and we all ran the center and right chutes without incident. Apparently, the chutes can be run up to about 4.5' on the gauge before headroom becomes an issue. Note that the river there now has big chunks of jagged rip rap in it and these chutes need extra attention at all levels. There is a portage if needed.
Also recommended was the division of the trip into two groups. Sixteen is an unmanageable number of paddlers for a long trip. It's difficult to scan the river for fifteen helmets after a rapid. Large groups tend to get strung out and separated over time. The smaller groups eliminated these problems and allowed the people who wanted to beat the PM traffic to get on and off the river expeditiously.
March has been a fine start to the post-pandemic paddling year.