Rivanna River Water Trail


Rivanna River Water Trail

The Rivanna River watertrail begins in the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia and winds it's way south 41 miles where it empties into the James River near Columbia, Virginia. 

Canoe or kayak through historic landscapes and natural areas where once Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers once roamed. 

Enter Your Location

Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate such trails. The Chesapeake Conservancy, National Park Service, and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials.

Main image: Dave Harp / Bay Journal


Spring through fall:

  • Launch sites -- Dawn to Dusk

**Do not go on the river during flooding or high water


No fees


Paddle a canoe or kayak to view historic sites dating to the 18th century, view wildlife, go fishing, or just relax.

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


There are 6 existing launch sites along the route. Launch sites provide parking and access to the river. Obtain a water trail map for details. Restrooms are not available at all launch sites or along the river; plan to use services in local communities or carry appropriate sanitary containers. Primitive camping is available at some designated sites along the route. Do not use private land without prior permission. Services and accommodations are available in several communities in the area.

Trail History

The Rivanna River, the largest tributary to the upper James River, was named for Queen Anne, as it was the custom in early Virginia history to name streams for royalty. Its headwaters originate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia, in both Albemarle and Greene counties. The river meanders through the City of Charlottesville and stretches south through Fluvanna County, joining with the James River at Columbia. The confluence of the North and South forks, just upstream from Darden Towe, forms the Rivanna’s mainstem, a total of 50 miles in length. The 766 square miles of watershed is home to a variety of terrestrial and aquatic species, including the rare and endangered James Spinymussel (Pleurobema collina). Remarkably, sixty-five percent of the Rivanna Watershed is forested, which helps retard pollution.

Historically, the banks of the Rivanna River were home to the Monacan Indian Tribe. And, with the establishment of the European settlements, the Rivanna became an essential resource for early agricultural activity. Thomas Jefferson enhanced the river’s usefulness by improving navigation, in large measure to accommodate the transport of wheat and tobacco from Monticello and other regional farms. For more on the Rivanna River’s history, please read Mr. Jefferson’s River: The Rivanna by Minnie Lee McGehee and William E. Trout III. (2001)

Last updated: October 05, 2021