This stretch of the Appomattox River is a great stretch for non-stop white water in the class I-III+ range. It is accessible via two routes, Chesterfield county has made a first class canoe launch at the Chesdin dam, or you can start at ferndale park and paddle up the old navigation canal. The upper section of this river offers nothing more than a strong class II rapid known as the Jug handle. It is named the jug handle because when looked at from above, it has the appearance of a jug handle. This image is from above the bumpy drop. Be advised that on our run there was a strainer to the right on the rapid. It is fairly visible on this picture. Jug handle is known for strainer danger and should be scouted from the eddy on the left of the river. On this day it comfortably held 10 boats, so even the largest groups can use the eddy to scout. This rapid is run center left and has a large hole at the bottom that will splash over your head if you are in a white water kayak or come in and shock your bags in cold water in a white water canoe. After bumping down jug handle, you will encounter numerous class I-II rapids picking your way through the rocks and technical turns.
The lower section of the Appomattox is a different animal than the upper. The gradient begins to quicken and the rapids become more technical and fast. You will cross a number of Class II rapids on this section, culminating with two strong class III rapids known as Pipeline and Target Rock. Target rock can be classified as a class IV based on river levels so exercise caution. Pipeline is actually a bypass of an old diversion dam and is a strong rapid with a 90 degree turn in the middle. You will cross under some supremely nice foot bridges constructed by the Friends of the Lower Appomattox. The image to the right is the bottom of pipeline rapid. The good news is that there is a large eddy pool at the bottom of the rapid to collect yourself if you take a swim. Be sure to collect yourself quickly however, because you will need to get ready for the large rapid, Target rock.
Target rock comprises of two runs, both difficult in their own right. The run on river right is known as the seven drop run, and is a very strong class II at least. It is a straight shot down some very exciting drops and a couple of technical rock avoidances . The image to the left is the beginning of the seven drop run. Target rock itself is a big series of drops that culminates with a rock (the whole target rock thing) that water piles up against and has a tendency to pile up canoes and kayaks as well. Careful scouting is required and having safety set is advisable.
The picture to the right is the entrance to target rock rapid. The rapid, as I found out, is best run from the left as the current will push your boat right. Staying left is a challenge to say the least, but right is a rocky, bumpy canoe flipping experience that I would not like to repeat anytime soon. Once in the rapid, you will want to catch an eddy to the left before target rock. Missing this eddy is not sure disaster, but will give you a much better chance at becoming intimate with the named rock. The picture below is of target rock. You can see the water piling up against the rock. Once again, exercise caution in this rapid. It is deceptively powerful and should not be run without careful scouting. The Appomattox river is one of the most scenic and historic rivers in the central Virginia area. It holds a special place in American history. Have a look around while you are paddling this river, history is all around you. This river is best run with groups over 3 and more are recommended. As the sign at the put in indicates, the rapids are powerful and injury is possible.