We've been getting many questions about the upcoming races and I'd like to address the most common questions in this post.
Q: "I'd like to paddle this section of river before the race. Where can I launch/how do I get in through the gate below the bridge?"
A: It is not possible to launch inside the gated area near the bridge 364 days of the year. This is private land and the private land owner only allows us to launch from this area one day per year specifically for the races. However, if you go a little further up Rio Mills Road to where it makes a sharp bend, there are a couple of short trails through the woods that lead you to reasonably good launch areas. One is immediately below the dam and the other is a bit further downstream where a large rock makes for a good launch area.
Q: "I'm a little concerned about the rapids on this section of the river. Do you think I can handle them?"
A: It would be irresponsible for anyone to suggest to you what type of water you can or cannot handle without knowing anything about you or your paddling skills. Nobody can or should suggest to you what class of river you can handle. That said, this section of the Rivanna has a few sets of rapids but is mostly flat water. The biggest rapids on this section are Class II, BUT water conditions can change rapidly based on the weather and flow levels. These same rapids may come closer to Class II+ at times but do not typically qualify as Class III.
The answer to the question, "How is the river right now?" is also complicated to answer.
This section of the Rivanna is directly below the South Rivanna Reservoir/dam and there are no gauges on this particular section of river that are good indicators of current conditions. The gauge at Palmyra is the closest gauge but the water level on the Charlottesville section of the Rivanna depends upon if and how much water is flowing over the dam at any given time so the gauge at Palmyra may or may not be a good indicator of current river conditions on this particular section of the river. My personal, subjective way to judge the current river condition is to cross the Rt. 29 bridge and look upstream to see how much water is coming over the dam and then look downstream to see how high the river looks and whether or not any visible islands or sand bars exist.
Below is a video that shows a 9-yr-old girl solo paddling this section of the river for her first time. The video was shot on March 31, 2012 and the gauge at Palmyra was 843 cubic feet per second, 3.83' at launch time and the early part of the video shows the flow level over the dam at launch time.
Only YOU can judge for yourself what type of water you can handle and only YOU can best determine if the river is at a comfortable level for you at any given time.