Appomattox - Chesdin Dam To Petersburg (Route 36)

Appomattox, Virginia, US


Chesdin Dam To Petersburg (Route 36)

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles



Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02041650 600 - 6000 cfs II-III 00h22m 136 cfs (too low)

River Description

Virginia Whitewater, Roger Corbett

Ed Evangelidi testifies:
This stretch of mild whitewater was formerly a heavily industrialized river and there are many man-made obstacles to be aware of, including dams in various states of disrepair, rebar, sharp rock, etc. There are also terminal hydraulics at high water. It is best to go with someone who knows the river. There are also many miles of very flat water way above Lake Chesdin that are paddleable.


Paul Clemmer says:

Runnable levels: On the upper end, 8’ is my absolute cutoff, and to run at 6.5’ or higher I would require a more experienced group. The Matoaca bridge RC gauge says NO WAY between 4’ and 4.5’ (corresponds to 6.5-7’ on the USGS gauge). I have heard that this section has been rafted as high as 14’. Takeout is before Campbell’s bridge at high levels. RC gauge shows a “canoe zero” level that corresponds to about 2.5’ on the USGS gauge at Matoaca. It can be run lower than this if you are careful about selecting the deeper channels and don’t mind occasionally dragging your boat over rocks. I have poled my 17’ canoe a quarter mile past the abutment dam and had no problem finding enough water at 190 CFS (2.05’), so that is my lower comfort level. At that level this section is more of a nature/history float than a whitewater trip, but (to me anyway) still worth doing.

Other features: many Class I and II rapids and play spots, braided channels through islands, wildlife, strainers in island area. Alternate access points at Abutment dam, Ferndale Park, river trail in Pipeline/Target Rock area. STRONG whirlpool under Campbell’s bridge at higher levels (if you’ve always wanted to do a mystery move in your canoe, this is the place). Harvell Dam (100 yards below the takeout) is a potentially lethal hazard, so don’t miss the takeout. A short distance below Harvell dam the river is tidal and can be paddled to the James River confluence in Hopewell, and beyond.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-03-16 13:09:58


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.0Abutment DamIIIHazard Playspot Photo
2.7JughandleIIIPlayspot Photo
5.6Spiked DamIIHazard Playspot
6.3Target RockIII+Playspot

Rapid Descriptions

Abutment Dam (Class III, Mile 1.0)

Busted Dam = Fun

Busted Dam = Fun
Photo of Kieth & Tristan by Raven Harris taken 01/04/14 @ 1730 cfs

About a mile below Chesdin Dam, you will come to a clear horizon line.  The dam is broken out in the center and can be portaged/scouted from either side.  To run it, follow the leftmost green water and work left after the drop to avoid a couple of rocks.  There is a log parallel to the flow and a HUGE rootball on the right.  This can pose a significant hazard at higher flows.

Jughandle (Class III, Mile 2.7)

Jug Handle

Jug Handle
Photo by Raven Harris taken 01/04/14 @ 1730 cfs

To run Jughandle, stay left when the river divides and has a clear difference of gradient between the two sides.  The left will be a calm and quiet channel until the main drop, which is a pretty straightforward wavetrain that is usually run just left of center.  It can be scouted from the left by walking upstream and using an I-beam footbridge to reach it.  Watch out for possible log strainers here.  Several excellent playspots below this rapid as it rejoins the main flow.

Spiked Dam (Class II, Mile 5.6)

Most trips avoid Spiked Dam by staying left when you cross under the power lines.  The wood has rotted out of this old dam, leaving behind only rocks and metal spikes.  To run it, stay right at the power lines and try to stay with the deeper water.  At the main drop (a visible horizon line), this seems to be just left of a large rock.  Keep an eye out for the spikes, especially if you're in an inflatable!

Pipeline (Class III, Mile 6.2)

Here you will be see a sharp horizon line with a pedestrian bridge over a channel on the right.  This is easily scouted from the right using the walking path.  You will pick up speed as you proceed under the pedestrian bridge (a bit left of center).  Be prepaired to make a sharp left turn under a second pedestrian bridge (center to right of center).  Now you will hit the main wavetrain and runout to the right.  Huge recovery pool *IF* you've already made the left turn before you flip.

Target Rock (Class III+, Mile 6.3)

To avoid Target Rock rapid, simply stay far right and run along the bank parallel to the walking trail.  This is a Class II line called either Seven Drops or Girl Scout (depending, probably, on whether you ran it or your friend did).

To run Target Rock, proceed just left of the island that separates the river through a small wavetrain with a big eddy.  Now move to the far left and run the rapid about 10 feet off of the left bank.  You can either A) be prepared to catch a hard left eddy after the main drop, then ferry out and around the rock, or B) be prepared to move right after the main drop to avoid the rock.  Either one is fine, but decide ahead of time.


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