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SUP on the Rappahannock River

Photo credit: Tim Snyder/FXBG SUP

Looking for a new way to experience the outdoors this spring and summer? Imagine gliding along the surface of a beautiful waterway, seeing new things and getting an excellent total-body workout all at the same time.

Standup paddle boarding, or SUP as it’s known, is catching on as a fun way to do all of these things. The Fredericksburg region has a wealth of exceptional waterways ready-made for exploring via SUP.

Call Me Fred caught up with River Rock Outfitter, which rents SUP boards in both Downtown Fredericksburg and at Stafford’s Hope Springs Marina, and offers SUP courses and fitness classes, and Shawn Young, whose FXBG SUP was one of the earliest providers of SUP lessons in the region, to offer ideas on where to take your SUP board in Fredericksburg, VA.

Young is taking a break from his SUP business this season, but in addition to River Rock, SUP boards can be rented at the Virginia Outdoor Center on the Rappahannock River and Wake Anna Surf & Ski on Lake Anna.  

From a paddleboard, you can look down and see turtles, fish and other wildlife, or up and see bald eagles, the arches of a railroad bridge or a red-tailed hawk. Young recalls one trip he led for a business traveler from Honolulu, a devoted SUP enthusiast who didn’t want to miss his regular workout.

Young took him out for a trip on Stafford’s Abel Reservoir.

“This is a guy who paddles over coral reefs looking down through crystal clear turquoise water every day. That’s his normal, and he comes out here and he’s just  like, man that was so cool, I’ve never done anything like that before,” Young said. “I think in the lakes and rivers here we’ve got something really special.”

Here are 5 places to SUP in the Fredericksburg region. Remember to wear a life vest, never paddle alone, and consider taking a course like the American Canoe Association classes offered through River Rock to make your paddle a safe one.

1.    City Dock ParkShawn Young says: “You’ll find plenty of parking, decent put-in and take-out, and lots to see in the area. You can go upstream for views of the city from the river, or downstream for a more natural setting. It’s the best of both worlds. Watch out for fishing lines crossing the boat ramps, as well as shallow water and submerged tree stumps that are rare but can be encountered. (There’s a big one right by the train bridge.) Also check the tide and current before going. The webapp that I made works well for that and can be saved right onto any phone.”

2.    Old Mill Park to Little Falls. Shawn Young says: “This is a one-way downstream trip about 5 miles in distance. You could take out at City Dock Park, which would be considerably shorter at about 1.5 miles. Either way, you will need to have a car or ride waiting at the take-out spot. Watch out for big submerged rocks in the water near Old Mill Park, and for shallow water in places up to City Dock Park. Bring water, a snack, and sun protection if it’s hot weather. Also watch for boat traffic below the Route 3 bridge.”

3.    Mott’s Run Reservoir. Shawn Young says: “This is a peaceful place with lots to explore. There’s a great put-in and take-out area, and restroom facilities and vending machines on site. It’s a good place to picnic and paddle board for families. You will need to pay a launch fee.”

4.    Abel Reservoir. Shawn Young says: “This is a great place to get out and enjoy the scenery. I have seen a lot of wildlife here, including eagles, hawks, deer, beavers, turtles, fish, wild turkeys, and ospreys. There are also cliffs along the way, which makes for a nice photo location. The lake is 2.5 miles long, so a round-trip to the end and back is 5 miles, which makes for a good outing. Be careful at the parking lot at dusk and after dark, as it’s pretty secluded.”


5.    Hope Springs Marina - River Rock’s April Peterson says: “The marina is located on a protected section of Aquia Creek at the mouth ofthe Potomac River in Stafford County. Stay close to the marina to practice your skills or venture out for a distance tour. This is big water with a lot of area to stretch out and explore. You can travel up the creek to enjoy an eco-tour with lily pads, an abundance of wildlife, and beautiful tree-lined shores. Travel down the creek toward the Potomac and receive a more challenging paddle with choppier water and more flowing currents. Entry and exits are easy on the Marina's sandy beaches.  Bring your own gear and simply pay a parking fee.   

Here are some other places to explore: Little Falls Boat Ramp, Lake Mooney (opening in 2016), Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve, Hunting Run Reservoir, Lake Anna State Park.

Want more water-based fun? Explore the Potomac River in Stafford County or check out 5 reasons to fly fish in the Fredericksburg region.