Ed Evangelidi testifies:
One of the classic novice runs in Virginia. Lots of small ledgy rapids and great scenery. The fearsome Compton Rapid (Cl 2) is spotted when you come to a nice rock outcrop on the right, a view of elevated train tracks in the gap below that and, as the river turns slightly left, a much bigger rock outcrop below and to the right. You might also find lots of spectators enjoying the boating mishaps here. The problem is that novice boaters can only run a rapid straight on and the rapid demands a turn in most choice of routes. Then if the boaters start to take on water in the upper part, they enter a wave train that will often swamp a canoe. Scout your route and donÂt sit up on a canoe seat. Bring scuba tanks to recover lots of watches, bottles of sunscreen, etc. at the bottom of the rapid. There is one other rapid further down with a surprise low horizon line that is not much of a problem if you spot it in time and pick a route. Approach the low-water Bentonville takeout bridge with caution if it is high water. The South Fork Shenandoah is also popular with some marathon distance paddlers who like the stretch from Elkton to Karo Landing (below Bentonville) because of its good flow at moderate levels.
My brother and I ran this river on July 15, 2017 for the first time. If you look at the maps in the pictures it is 44 miles long and they have mile markers on the trees along the way. You can pretty much put in and get out at anyone of those points. We camped at low-water bridge campground at mile 28 ($31/night has showers and free coffee). Drove down to Island Ford Road for the put in which was around mile 16. Did 12 miles. All class one with a few little fun spots. Nothing difficult. It was low-runnable at the time. Scraped the bottom a few times but nothing you couldn't get over and nothing that will damage your kayak. A lot of tubers out there that are shuttled and chartered. If you're looking to be around zero people, this isn't for you, but a lot of fun with people on the water and saying hi as you pass by. The ledge right after mile marker 23 is kind of fun. That's the photos I also uploaded. I screen-capped "Map my Ride" and you can see the route we took specifically from bottom to top.
Ran S. Shenandoah from Bixler's Ferry in Luray to Front Royal on 6.26-29.11. Highly recommend Bruce Ingram's book "The Shenandoah and Rappahannock Rivers Guide" for anyone fishing this trip. The mile marker signs that are posted along the river have been put up since his book, so here are some notes I made for canoe camping.
To reach the Luray put-in: When entering Luray on 211 heading east, go through Luray and you will pass under a bridge with sign "Bixler's Ferry" road, which you can no longer get on from this newer bypass road. After the bridge, take a right on a small street Hawksbill. Then right on Mechanic at stop sign. Stay on Mechanic and it will turn into Bixler's Ferry, cross over 211, go about 3 miles and after you cross the river, look for the access on a side road to the right.
To reach the Front Royal take-out: Shuttle HWY 340 between the two towns is only about 25 miles since the road runs straight while the river switchbacks for a distance of 44 miles. Headed north on 340, when you enter Front Royal, take a left on Criser at the second stop light, then left on Luray. You will see the sign for the Front Royal boat ramp on left. There is plenty of parking in Eastham park just up the hill from the ramp once you drop your boats. There seem to be plenty of friendly local authorities patrolling this ramp and park. I recommend making acquaintance and letting them know you will be leaving a vehicle for a number of days.
LEFT: State Road 684 then 717 run beside the river on left from Luray to Overall, a distance of 28 miles, with many nice ramps along river left to shorten the trip. Ramps on river left are located at #8, #11 (Goods Landing) #13, #16, #19, #20.
RIGHT: River right ramps accesses are at #11 (no ramp but easy access and portajohns at picnic area), #17 at a campground/outfitters, #25, after #27 at the low water bridge at Bentonville (PORTAGE), after #31 at Guest State Park, #37 (Karo Landing), then #44 at Front Royal.
After leaving Luray, the G. Washington Nat. Forest boundary starts at mile marker #6, and you will see plenty of established places to camp on river left. There are frequent sites along river left between #6 and #9. At #13 there are six large USNF sites with drive-in access. At #17 and #18 there are sites on left.
If you are planning to make this entire 44 mile run as we did, your best option for camping between #18 and #44 is Raymond "Andy" Guest State Park after #31. A few notes on the park... RESERVE in ADVANCE!!!!! This is one of the cleanest, nicest state parks I have seen in the country, apparently recently renovated but they only have about 12 sites and they are in HIGH DEMAND. They have a very nice canoe launch ramp at the day use area with ample parking. If you are paddling in to camp, continue down the river and there is a set of stairs to access the campground with a sign "River Right Access #1". I reiterate MAKE RESERVATIONS at this park b/c the Ranger Contact Station is over a mile from the campground, and it is all up a very steep hill. The sites are $30 a night, which is also steep, but after 3 days on the river you will be ready for a shower and the bath house and showers at this park are luxurious as far as state park accommodations go.
If you are paddling from Raymond "Andy" Guest state park to Front Royal, you will need a minimum of 1.8 on the USGS Front Royal gauge to travel this reach in loaded boats. When we ran this part, the gauge reading was 1.5. That is above the minimum level on AW for this section, but we had to do a lot of walking and dragging in the McCoy's Ford area and in a few other parts of this stretch.
This is a great run, even for novices, and a great run for canoe camping. The fishing is outstanding during practically the whole run and Dad and I caught over 50 fish in just one day. The river is clean, pristine and the rolling hills are beautiful. One of the most unique sights is the "Golden Rocks" area between #17 and #18 on river right. These yellow gold cliffs include an enormous cave high over the river. There are several outfitters running the South Fork if you need help with logistics. Enjoy!
If you like, I have some good maps of both the South and North Shenandoah.
Can anyone provide me with some info on the section from Bixlers bridge to mile 19 thanks
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