Summertime is the time to be on the water, and in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, we have several blueways to explore.

Head to our rivers for kayaking, fishing, tubing, and relaxation with friends, family, or on your own.

As the water flows down from the Blue Ridge Mountains, it creates beautiful landscapes and blueways that serve as the perfect opportunity to be a #Trailsetter. And following your time on the water, there are nearby towns and cities with an abundance of dining and beverage options.

These four river destinations account for more than 150 miles of scenery and splashing good times. Plan your weekend escape for H2O today.

Before You Go: Familiarize yourself with The Leave No Trace 7 Principles. These guidelines are a great way recreate responsibly and help protect nature when you spend time outside.

 Upper James River Water Trail 

Upper James River Water Trail - Botetourt County, Virginia

Sixty-four miles of river (54 on the James River and 10 on the Maury River) create the Upper James River Water Trail. 59 of those miles – the headwaters to Glasgow - are designated Virginia Scenic River, meaning, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better stretch of water for great fishing and floating.

While there are Class I-II rapids here and there along the way, the water is mostly flat.

Come spend the day on this Chesapeake Bay Gateway featured by Travel + Leisure and dubbed one of the “21 Best Lazy Rivers to Float this Summer” by Travel Channel.

Upper James River Water Trail Map

Upper James River Water Trail Map

>> For an outfitter to make the most of your day, contact Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan, which even offers multi-day paddling & camping trip options, or Dead Drift Outfitters for guided fishing trips.

Post-Float Food & Drink Options: Buchanan Fountain & Grille | Foot of the Mountain Cafe | Maw & Paw's Diner

 Roanoke River Blueway

Roanoke River Blueway - Mill Mountain

The paddle-friendly Roanoke River Blueway is 45 miles from the South Fork of the Roanoke River in Montgomery County to the boating access for Smith Mountain Lake at Hardy Road in Bedford County. The river courses through towns and cities and along greenways offering ample opportunities to come ashore.

In fact, you can launch a kayak from downtown Roanoke’s development at The Bridges, as well as four other locations within the City of Roanoke and 11 more east and west of Roanoke.

Another popular launch spot is Rutrough Point in Roanoke County’s Explore Park, which also features riverfront camping space!

Roanoke River Gorge - Blue Ridge Parkway

Note that Brown and Rainbow Trout are stocked in certain sections of the Roanoke River, and there are also areas that are Delayed Harvest. Interactive Trout Waters Map

Roanoke River Blueway Map

Roanoke River Blueway Map

>> Check out the Roanoke River Blueway Guide
>> Contact Roanoke Mountain Adventures for kayak, tube, & paddleboard rentals, guided trips, and other outfitting needs

Post-Float Food & Drink Options: Starr Hill Pilot Brewery & Side Stage | RND Coffee | Hang 10 Hawaiian Ice & Cream | Lydia's Italian Kitchen | Twin Creeks Brewpub at Explore Park

 Blackwater River Blueway

Standup Paddleboarding - Blackwater River - Franklin County, VA

A Smith Mountain Lake tributary, the Blackwater River headwaters begin on Cahas Mountain and run 35 miles to flow into the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge.” You’ll want to check the water gauges on this one before you head out.

When there’s great rain and run-off, there will be great depths for floating and possibly even tackling the Class II rapids that await at US Route 220 and Farm Ford Road.

Photo by Matt Ross - Franklin County Parks & Recreation

Blackwater River Blueway Maps

Blackwater River - Franklin County

>> For a day-trip option, consider the eight-mile float on the lower section of the Blackwater that feature calm waters that are great for fishing & wildlife viewing.

Post-Float Food & Drink Options: Holly Jo's Creekside Grill | Franklin County Distilleries | Homestead Creamery

 Pigg River Blueway

Tubing the Pigg River - Franklin County, Virginia

Eight miles of farm and woods are the backdrop for your Pigg River adventure through Franklin County from Waid Recreation Area to Lynch Riverside Park. This is another float that’s best planned for when the water levels are optimal. Fishermen, the Pigg is stocked with Rainbow and Brown Trout; see if you can get a bite.

During the summer months, Franklin County Parks & Recreation offers family tube rentals on Saturdays and Sundays in Waid Recreation Area.

Pigg River Tubing - Franklin County

Photos by Matt Ross - Franklin County Parks & Recreation

Pigg River Blueway Map

Pigg River Blueway - Franklin County 

Post-Float Food & Drink Options: Buddy’s BBQ | Rocky Mount Burger Co. | Twin Creeks Distillery | Bowling's Place Hot Dog Joint

Fishermen require a valid Virginia Fishing License, which is conveniently available online. Please also reference the Trout Fishing Guide prior to fishing trout waters.

Discover more water sports opportunities in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and be a #Trailsetter.

NOTE: This post was originally published in June 2018 but has been edited and updated with additional information and resources.