Looking back at the Upper James

The last five days canoeing on the James have been eye-opening for me. Ryan kayaked the entire length of the river back in 2007, but for me the upper reaches of the river that we have been paddling are all new. Although the scenery is mostly consistent (steep wooded banks, gray green water, train tracks) there still have been distinct features in  each stretch that we have paddled.

That first day when we were on the river with Pat Calvert in the upper James above Buchanan, the river was hugged by the hillsides and limestone cliffs. The National Forest flanks the river most of the way down, sometimes on both sides, so it was rare to see a house or field. There is good reason that some of this part of the James has been designated a National Scenic River. Interestingly, "No Trespassing" signs were much more common in this area west of the Blue Ridge, presumably because of adjacent public lands. Most of the people we ever saw up there were out fishing - we were the oddballs in a canoe without a line. The water was high from a couple days of heavy rains, so we were able to cover 21 miles in about five hours without much effort.