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(II) 01h12m 2.16 ft (too low)

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
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.


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