Nelson County offers three river options for enjoying canoeing, kayaking or tubing: the Tye River, the James River and the Rockfish River.
Beginning January 1, 2021, any person using a Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR)-owned or managed facility, including boating access sites, must have a valid Virginia hunting, trapping, or fishing permit, a Restore the Wild membership, an access permit, or current certificate of boat registration issued by DWR to use the facility. This does not apply to persons under the age of 17 or passengers with a permitted operator. The operator must have a permit. Click here for the FAQs from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
With headwaters beginning high in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the George Washington National Forest, the Tye River is one of the most beautiful whitewater streams in Virginia. The river begins at the end of two mountain passes, the North Fork and South Fork, at the foot of a mountain. It travels for about 34 miles through Nelson County, through beautiful scenery, with mountain, valley and pastoral views. The upper section can have strong whitewater for advanced paddlers, and the middle and lower sections, moderate whitewater on a seasonal basis. The rapids are rated Class I to Class II+. Depending upon water conditions, some rapids on the Tye River can approach Class III to IV.
The James River forms the southeastern border of Nelson County, and is the longest and largest of Virginia’s rivers, draining the center of Virginia, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. Important as a transportation center, the canals, railroads, highways, factories, cities and dams show how central the role of the James River was in developing the state of Virginia. Many access points exist for canoeing or kayaking the river. Small boats (such as john boats) can also be used at most access points.
ROCKFISH RIVER (Rt 6)
The Rockfish River is formed in Nelson County, Virginia, by the confluence of its North and South Forks (37°54′13″N 78°49′58″W), both of which rise in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway. It flows generally southeastwardly through northern Nelson County; in its lower course the river is used to define the boundary between Nelson and Albemarle counties. It enters the James River from the northwest on the common boundary of the two counties, about 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Scottsville.