Difficulty I-III
Length 4.5 Miles
Flow Range 2.45 - 6.50 FT
Flow Rate as of: 40 minutes ago 3.03 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 01/30/2020 4:09 pm

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Carter Never Saw It

Class - II+ Mile - 3

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.




Class - III Mile - 3.5

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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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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Donald Keller
9 years ago

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.

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Jeremy Cotten
9 years ago

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.

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Samuel Chamberlain
10 years ago

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!

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10 years ago

2.5 to 4.5 feet is a good range. I assumed 18 feet was a typo as i don't think the river has ever been that high. It was kayaked in 1996 the day after hurricane Fran and that was the highest I've ever seen (River Rd under water) and I don't think it was 18 feet even then. Below 2.5 it gets too rocky.

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Greg Lipps
11 years ago

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+

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Zach Santulli
15 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

There is a painted gauge visible across the river from Falls Rd. that is coded with green, yellow and red levels.

Right between yellow and green is a great level. This about 3.2 on the online gauge. About halfway up the yellow the good drops start to wash out.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
1981-02-21 High Near Miss/Rescue High Water Read More




article main photo

Attention Virginia Boaters!

Jason Robertson

During the high waters of Spring 2003, there has been a noticeable increase in reported confrontations between boaters and property owners in Virginia. Please remember to be respectful and courteous to property owners; do not trespass; and avoid confrontation in order to preserve access in the future.

Michael Rose


Austin Berry


Christopher Moczydlowski


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190755 04/22/08 Michael Rose
1214267 01/30/20 Austin Berry updated description
1214268 01/30/20 Austin Berry updated image position
1214265 01/30/20 Christopher Moczydlowski updated image position
1214266 01/30/20 Christopher Moczydlowski updated image position
1203161 03/11/14 Christopher Moczydlowski 4-30-2018 - corrected top range to high runnable
1213142 07/01/19 Christopher Moczydlowski updated image position