With a huge watershed providing year round boatable levels this is THE run for beginner and intermediate paddlers in VA. While people come from all over to paddle this run, during the week you could have the river to yourself. On the weekends it can get pretty crowded, but when the level is good (over 4') or after the weather turns cold most of the recreational canoers and fisherman clear out. All in all, this very fun run is mostly class 2 with an easy class three at Balcony Falls. It is a great run for instructing beginners and has enough play (at levels over 4 feet) to keep intermediate paddlers interested as well.
Directions to Put-in: From Roanoke: Take I-81 North to the exit 175, Natural Bridge, VA exit. Take a right off of the ramp and take a left on Rt 11. Follow Rt 11 a couple of miles until you get to the Natural Bridge Hotel. Take that Right (follow signs to Glasgow, Rt 130). Once you arrive in Glasgow look for a BP Convenience Store on Rt 130. The put-in is across the street from that store which is at the mouth of the Maury River. Look for the Boat Landing signs
Directions to take-out: From the BP station stay on Rt 130 (over the Maury River) until you come to a fork in the road, take a right at the fork (Rt 501). Go over the mountain (several roadside spots to see down the gorge) until you see the James at road level. There are several takeout options here, but the politically correct takeout is at the public boat ramp in Snowden (before the dam) on the left side of the road.
The road to the put-in dead-ends at a gravel parking area on the Maury River, just upstream of a railroad trestle which lies between the put-in and the confluence of the James and Maury Rivers. There is a gravel boat ramp that can be used to access the river. Some choose to seal launch off the grassy bank to the left of the ramp.
The first rapid after the put-in is actually on the Maury River just prior to joining the James. The typical line is down a tight slot right of center. Due to its reputation for flipping many beginners, some choose to walk down the right bank past this rapid to put-in directly onto the James River.
After the confluence of the James and Maury Rivers, the first ledge forms a small glassy wave in channel left of center. At some higher levels the ledge can form surfable waves just right of center as well.
An island composed of light colored sandstone boulders gives this rapid its name. The island splitting the river provids various routes and playspots on either side. At levels over 4 feet the river right contains a hole that is great for left spins and low angle cartwheels. This spot gets better as the water rises until it washes out somewhere over 7 feet.
After White Rocks and prior to reaching Balcony Falls, the small tributary Big Cove Branch enters on the river right. Paddlers encounter a river wide series of ledges named for this creek. While this ledge series had endless possible routes, the best play features are located on far river left.
The mountains come together forming the largest constriction on the run with a large sandstone island in the center of the river. The normal line is down the larger channel, left of the island, starting center, driving left, and ending in the large eddy on river left. Other more technical lines exist through the rocks further left or going right of the island. There is also a channel against the river right bank to sneak the whole rapid.
After Balcony Falls paddlers enter The Rock Garden, which is exactly what it's name indicates. There is no exact line, but to access the play spots near the end, start left at the top then work all the way to river right.
After working from left to right in the Rock Garden, paddlers can catch a ride on a nice green wave with two distinct breaks. A play feature that is easiest to catch on the fly, it is also possible to get multiple rides using the river right eddy for access. This feature is good at levels of 4-6 feet.
Just above Little Balcony, when the river is up in the 5-7 foot range, a great surf wave spans about 40 feet on the right. When it is in it's lots of fun, providing good surfing for as many people as want to join in.
Just below Little Balcony is a popular swimming area on far river right. At higher flows a good wave forms just left of the largest boulders. Check out the video to see some sweet looping action from 8.5'.
The official take-out is a boat ramp located in the mouth of Rocky Row Run, a small creek that flows in above Snowden Dam. To access the take-out paddlers must paddle into the mouth of the creek and pass under US 501/130.
There also a great little launch boof line at Balcony Falls on far river left. I've seen it there at 4.3ft. It's great at 5ft! Shallow on the landing, so watch yourself.
the falls is a really good run it is really fun for kids to MY KIDS LOVE IT!! but just like any river you run it has its dangers so keep an eye out for the kids and please DO NOT LITTER IN THE RIVER!!!! that is ruining the beauty of it all the point is to go on a thrilling ride as well as enjoy the view of the river but you cant do that with empty beer cans and wrappers flaoting around!!! so try to you know.... keep it clean and when you go please if you see somthing that is lying there PICK IT UP!!!
Thanks to all who do the Balcony Falls run and help keep it clean. I saw some open boaters getting trash out of the water to
Ran this section on Saturday. There are now two downed trees over the river right Confluence rapid (where the Maury meets the James). Suggest NOT running this rapid - use the alternative middle of the river route, a little bumpy, but much safer. Above all, Scout this rapid!
a group of boy scouts recently did a river cleanup. whew who knew. bet ya thought they were only good for losing gjngjhggear and building ampletheaters.
Ran 9/18/2010. In family canoe with 2 kids. Level 2.1 ft. Low but runnable - a few scrapes but adequate water all places except for the runout of the initial drop from the Maury into the James. Beautiful run - we'll go back. Saw probably 20 other boats on water.
8 years ago
by Matt Burnette
This gauge is well upstream of the actual run, but is still a great indicator for levels on this run. The Minimum and Maximum levels are rough guidelines because the Maury is adding quite a bit to the volume at the put-in. It is such a large river it really is never too low to run, but for whitewater paddlers it is much more fun at levels over 4 feet. The local canoe livery will not put trips on over 6 feet, but for many folks thats when the run is the most fun.
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The Real Falls
Balcony Falls from overlook on shuttle road
cam seal launch
Balcony Falls Panorama
TrevarB doing his thing.
Adam Goshorn runs Balcony Falls on the James River, VA
Typical summer scene and level at Balcony Falls, James River, VA
Panarama of Jump Rock and Seal Launching Rock on the James River, VA
Adam Goshorn seal launches into the James River in VA near Jump Rock.
(AG)Nate at Jump Rock on the James River, VA
(AG)Shannon MacMichael seal launches into the James River, VA
Adam Goshorn surfs the Dog on the James River, VA
Adam Goshorn exits Confluence and enters a fog covered James River
Seal Launching backwards
Kevin dropping the seal launch.
Seal Launch into the Maury at Balcony Put-in
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