Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers Water Trail

Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers Water Trail

The developing York River Water Trail follows approximately 120 river miles along the tidal York, Mattaponi, and Pamunkey rivers. The route spans a diverse landscape through parts of Virginia described and mapped by Captain John Smith in the 1600s. From the tidal waters near the Chesapeake Bay to the rural, fresh water rivers of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi, paddlers can explore natural estuaries and historic sites and lands still occupied by the descendants of native people who lived here for thousands of years before English settlement.

Please note that boating, canoeing, kayaking and other activities on rivers can be dangerous. Obtain a water trail map and guide in advance, plan your trip, and follow all safety precautions.


Public launch sites are open all day, spring through fall, many year-round. Do not go on the river during flooding, high water, or adverse weather conditions.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)


Public launch sites do not require a fee.


The route spans a diverse landscape through parts of Virginia described and mapped by Captain John Smith in the 1600s.


You will be able to experience the York River Water Trail by boat (along the York), canoe or kayak. The lower portion of the York is quite wide, especially near the confluence with the Cheapeake Bay; adverse weather conditions can make it particularly dangerous for canoeists or kayakers. It will be important to plan your trip in advance, check local conditions and do not canoe, kayak, or boat beyond your abilities.

When on the river, you can fish, look for wildlife, visit riverside communities and historic sites, or just enjoy the surrounding landscape. There are several other Chesapeake Bay Gateways along the route, including Yorktown, Gloucester Point, York River State Park, and the Pamunkey Indian Reservation. Visit these sites to learn more about the York River and the Bay.

Be sure to consult a water trail guide (when completed), detailed maps and local conditions prior to any river trip! Follow all safety precautions.

River Classification

Not Known (Read more about the different levels of River Classifications)

Water Trail Map & Guide

Free downloadable electronic maps for the York River and for the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers segments, as well as a five map set of waterproof river maps detailing the Lower Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers, are available for purchase from the Mattaponi & Pamunkey Rivers Association.


Public launch sites along the water trail route provide parking and access to the river. The water trail map and guide will more details on launch site facilities.

Main image: Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers Water Trail
Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail