5 Springtime River Adventures for the Whole Family

Spring is the season where the water is up, the warm weather invites, and the natural world bursts with new possibilities. It’s the season for trout fishing Saturdays, festivals and childhood wonder, and of course lazy river floats. If the season has you feeling as restless as the birds, Waynesboro has a golden suite of river and water adventures perfect for the whole family to celebrate spring.

(1) South River Fly Fishing Expo – April 21st and 22nd

South River Fly Fishing Expo (Photo by Norm Shafer)

Held on the banks of the South River in Constitution Park in Downtown Waynesboro, the South River Fly Fishing Expo combines the best of fly fishing workshops and presenters, gear shows, fishing opportunities, and downtown restaurants and cultural destinations. From Fly Tying classes to a casting pond to presentations on the health and conservation of trout finishing ecosystems, this two-day event is packed from 9am to 5pm both days with activities and fishing time. You can register, volunteer, meet the speakers, or learn about their exhibitors, but regardless of how you participate everyone will be celebrating the Expo’s annual goal of providing funding for continued improvements to the fish and conservation habitat of this amazing downtown fishery.

(2) Riverfest – April 28th

This rain or shine FREE annual event also occurs river-side in Downtown Waynesboro, with activities including Reptile World shows, Stream Safari, live animal exhibits by the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Fish and Fun Rodeo, canoe rides, kids arts and crafts, stream electro-fishing with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the ever-popular Great South River Duck Race. The event’s dedication to all-day programming that’s interactive, educational, and hands-on, ensures that both children and adults will be clamoring for more. The winner of the annual rubber ducky race will go home with $1,000, while festival revenues go to support conservation and watershed stewardship in the Shenandoah River Basin.

(3) Paddling the Waynesboro Water Trail

If you prefer your own schedule and the freedom to float, the Waynesboro Water Trail links neighborhoods, parks, and Downtown Waynesboro. Put in at Ridgeview Park and enjoy a couple hours of paddling to Basic Park.  If you need more river time, you can continue down the Greater South River Blueway, or for additional floats around the region, check out Visit Waynesboro’s canoeing and kayaking page.  If you’re coming without your own gear, nearby Rockfish Gap Outfitters can outfit your adventure with kayaks for purchase or rent.

(4) Fishing with the Family

It’s hard to drive over a downtown bridge in springtime Waynesboro without seeing a fly fisherman or three, casting in waders. Waynesboro has been called “trout central in the Old Dominion” and anglers of all ages enjoy our waters.

Outside of festivals, visitors can peruse maps of trout streams in the Shenandoah Valley, check out current regulations, and most importantly come experience this destination fishery. South River Fly Shop offers full service guiding and instruction if you want to jump-start your local knowledge with a half-day or full-day guided trip. If you are a family with teens and are new to fly fishing, a guided trip can give you a chance to try out a new sport, learn how and where to wade and cast, and spend a fun day creating memories together.


Regulations: Catch & Release, Artificial Lure Only. Licenses required: Freshwater fishing license (year-round) and trout license (October 1 – June 15). Licenses are available at South River Fly Shop or through VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.

(5) Evenings on (and about) the River

As the days lengthen and the light lasts, we’re packing springtime evenings with ways to celebrate the outdoors and river adventures. The International Paddling Film Fest pairs the world’s best paddling films with Basic City Brewing’s best beers and comes to Waynesboro on Wednesday, May 9th.

Also, you can find outdoor music on the river banks at “Groovin at the Greenway” every Thursday in June. Bands include Righteous Friendz Band, Bryan Elijah Smith, The Judy Chops, and Hard Swimmin’ Fish. These live music events make a great kick-off to a long weekend adventure with the family.