Top 5 Rapids on the James River

Top 5 Rapids of the James River

With dozens of rapids and year round whitewater, living alongside the James River and calling Richmond home is the perfect location for a kayaker looking to spend time on the river everyday. But what are the best rapids? We thought it would be fun to talk about our Top 5 Rapids on the James River.

5. Target Rock

Target Rock is located in the center of the river, visible from Belle Island and a couple of channels left of Hollywood. Its main feature, Target Rock, is the culmination of a long, complex rapid filled with slots and wave trains. I like Target Rock because it feels isolated from the crowds watching from Belle Island. At lower flows, Target feels like a natural slalom course with some fun eddies and a great ferry, but what really keeps us coming back is a monster rooster tail/curler that leads into a long, exploding wave train at higher water.

4. LuLu

Creeking on the James! As the river braids out into the delta towards the finale of the Fall Line, a bunch of channels offer up a 'creeky' feel. LuLu is most likely the tallest horizon line and steepest natural cascade on the entire section of the Lower. It has a great boof & exciting set of moves on a shallow piece of bedrock as you make your exit. Not a good place to flip!

3. Deception and the Hidden Boof

There always seems to be some confusion on the name of this rapid and I don't know the original, so I call it Deception. My favorite way to enter this rapid is with the Hidden Boof, one of the best on the river. You feel 'out there' when descending Deception, even though you are in the heart of a major metropolitan city. The final plunge off the horse shaped ledge always offers a variety of landings, and this uncertainty is why I love this rapid.

2. Hollywood

Let's get back to the basics. Hollywood is the ultra classic, big water rapid on the James, with monster holes at high water and a variety of surf waves, boofs, and ferries at multiple river levels. In addition, it has the Million Dollar Wave, the best surf on the entire stretch. Hollywood is always fun.

1. Pipeline

Near and dear to my heart is Pipeline. The rapid setting is a contrast of human ingenuity meeting nature at river level - crashing waves, over multiple ledges with high rise buildings on river left and a wildlife haven to the right - makes this place a stunning place to paddle a kayak. I learned to cartwheel at Pipeline and spent countless evenings playing in the hole at 3rd drop as a teenager. As I grew up and started running the river at higher levels, Pipeline was the rapid that I always looked forward to the most. It's an amazing place, one of my favorites in the world.

Of course, there are a lot of other great rapids on the James, but these are my Top 5. What are yours? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram, @homeonthejames!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published