Rappahannock - 4. Motts Run to Fredericksburg

Rappahannock, Virginia, US


4. Motts Run to Fredericksburg

Usual Difficulty I-III (varies with level)
Length 4.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 13 fpm
Max Gradient 30 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-01668000 2.45 - 6.50 ft I-III 00h49m 3.25 ft (running)

River Description

Embrey Dam has been fully removed, enhancing the entertainment value of this run quite a bit.

There is a good boat launch putin for the entire section on Route 618 (River Road) near Motts Run Park. This is also the takeout for the milder popular canoe run that starts 24 miles upstream at Kelly's Ford. You can skip a mile or so of flatwater by putting in further down River Road where the road turns away from the river.

There are three Class I-II rapids in the first mile. This section is also quite beautiful and seemingly remote, as you are in a gorge of sorts owned by the City of Fredricksburg to protect its water supply.

As you go under I-95, you enter the section that used to be flatwater. Right at 95 there are some large boulders and bridge pilings that must be navigated around to quicken the heart of the novice. The first new Class II rapid is called Hunters Mill Rapid. Here water was diverted for a mill downstream near the dam. This is followed after a few hundred yards by "Carter Never Saw It", a tribute to the father of Virgnia Canoeing. The whole new section is reminiscent of Staircase or Kelly's Ford, with the two new rapids bookending the fun.

Novices looking for a fun trip can take out just below the removed dam. There is a takeout controlled by the Friends of the Rappahannock on river right.

The Falmouth rapids section below the dam has some tasty Class III drops interspersed with short pools. You have a choice of routes for each rapid, and the more technical complicated passages tend to be to the right. Some of these routes are definitely Class III and pins are possible. The safer more straightforward routes involve staying with the main flow of the river.

For those into simulated creek boating, you can run the Falmouth section down a narrow passage on the left that runs on the other side of two islands.

The take out is on river right at Old Mill Park, just off of Fall Hill Avenue in Fredricksburg. To run just the bottom part, follow Fall Hill Avenue a mile upstream to the point where it turns away from the river.

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Last Updated: 2014-03-11 02:23:48


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Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
3.0Carter Never Saw ItII+Playspot Photo
3.5BacksideIIIPlayspot Photo
3.6Falmouth RapidsII+Playspot

Rapid Descriptions

Carter Never Saw It (Class II+, Mile 3.0)


Photo by Raven Harris taken 03/02/14 @ 1900 cfs

These rapids begin at the I-95 bridge and end just above Lauck's Island.  Until the Embrey Dam was removed, all these rapids were flooded.

  • Hunter's Dam Rapids:
  • Remains of the pre-revolutionary war Hunter's Iron Works Dam.  The river left portion of the last section is currently choked with several fallen trees.
  • Iron Ring Rock aka Carter Never Saw It aka BFR
  • Big Rock in the center of the river. All normal lines are to the left of the rock.  There is a sieve just to the right of the biggest rock and an undercut danger on river right; however, most of the flow is going in the safe direction.  Left of the rock there are 3 different chutes to choose from.  All are good.



Backside (Class III, Mile 3.5)

Bob's Glasses

Bob's Glasses
Photo by Raven Harris taken 04/06/14 @ 3.55 ft

This is a great run on the north side of Lauck’s Island. Enter from several places on river left below the Embrey Dam remains. General about 2000cfs is needed to make this a decent run. It starts with a cobbly Class II and a long pool.


Bob's Glasses

The first rapid after a long pool. The main line is to start river right, and run the drop angled to the left. This hole, although very tight and steep can provide some good surfing.


Shoulder Snapper
Last rapid on the backside.  This rapid provides a nice hole to play in at higher levels, but even still it's relatively bony.


Falmouth Rapids (Class II+, Mile 3.6)

Mile long section of rapids where the Rappahannock tumbles over the fall line at 30 fpm. Falmouth starts with a long pool below Embrey dam. You can get all of the action by putting in at the grassy spot where Falls Rd. turns away from the river.


First Drop
Several enjoyable lines through here. The most commonly run line is river left of center. Two holes here provide good surfing at most lower levels.


Second Drop
A Class II boogie water section (very bony through the low water/summer months)


Target Rock
A Class 3-4 rapid river right of The Corner rapid. It's a narrow slot move followed by a

right turn down a chute. Be sure to scout for strainers here.


The Corner
A quick succession of small drops and holes.


Berkey's Hole
A grabby hole under a 2 foot drop on river right. Be sure to punch through. Not too bad of a

hole really, just be weary of playing in it as there is also I nice head klunker just below

it if you flip.


Cowan's Wave
Directly beside Berkey's hole, this is a nice wave at many levels. Typically the only way to

access it is from some eddies on river left.


Washing Machine
Pick your way through this last Class II+ rapid and your runs nearly done.


The Squeeze
A creek move on the river right side of Washing Machine. Watch your head, you may have to

duck a timber overhanging the entrance.


User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 6 2011 (2783 days ago)
Donald KellerDetails
Ran this on June 4, 2011 at 2.7' on gauge and was just barley runnable. Weather and water temp were
nice so a good day but 3' would probably be a more advisable minimum level. Put in and takeout were
great and shuttle is very easy and quick. Rapids were nothing more than easy Class 2 except perhaps
a solid class 2 at the first major drop at the fallsline in town. Not much current near start but
slowly picks up as one heads downstream. NIce scenery for all but last mile but never bad.
October 9 2010 (3023 days ago)
jeremycotten (152501)
Ran this last weekend (kayaks) with 2 other guys at 4.6 ft. awesome level with tons of nice waves
and playspots. Iron ring rock rapid was at perfect level running river left of rock. very deep and
fast wave.
May 20 2010 (3165 days ago)
lostinak (151814)
floated in packrafts which I brought from Alaska for quick visit in my old home town, river at 3.2,
good level for a PR, most fun had just above Rte 1 bridge, river seemed cleaner then when I grew up
here 10 years ago, props to Friends of the Rapp!
May 12 2009 (3538 days ago)
Greg LippsDetails
I ran this river on 5-9-09 and the level was about a 4.2 Right after the I-95 bridge there is a
strainer on the right side of the Big rock in Hunters Mill Rapid(its a big stainer, you can't miss
it). We seen a canoe hung up in it. Stay to the left of the rock if the water is high. Was a great
run at 4.2 be prepared though, when the level is up the rapids go from a CII to a CIII+
May 18 2005 (4993 days ago)
Zach SantulliDetails
The dam has now been cleared and the ban on boating placed while the removal took place has been
lifted. You can now run uninterrupted from Motts to Fredericksburg. With the dam gone a new section
of rapids have been exposed. The dam being 100 years old (and the previous dam going back about 50
years before that one), there was a lot of silt deposit. Each heavy rain changes the river as silt
moves from place to place. Time will tell how things will settle out.