Setting the Hook: Fishing & Festival Destinations in the South River Watershed

Acclaimed “trout central in the Old Dominion,” the South River waterway through Waynesboro lures visitors with the perfect combination of greenways, trout fisheries, kayak floats, and downtown dining. With a stunning lineup of river-focused festivals and educational offerings, we’re setting the hook. Whether you’re new to fly fishing or passionate about the cold, clear streams of the Shenandoah Valley, this season serves up South River adventures for all.

South River & Fly Fishing Events

Photo courtesy South River Fly Shop

Cast your line for back-to-back weekends of river fun. Some of the best fly fishing in the Valley is right downtown in Waynesboro’s Urban Trout Fishery, where Shenandoah Valley Trout Unlimited has partnered with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to build trout habitat structures and an ongoing conservation legacy.

For an inviting welcome to this destination fishery, join these educational festivals on the banks of the South River. They pair perfectly with river strolls and evening dining beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Fly Fishing Expo — April 27 & 28

Held on the banks of the South River along the greenway in downtown Waynesboro, this two-day festival features schedule-packed, multi-tent presentations to improve and inspire your fly fishing. Learn from the experts with classes on fly casting techniques, kayak fly fishing rigging, four seasons fly fishing, Shenandoah watershed Brookies and Bronzebacks and more.

The South River is a popular destination for fly anglers due to the great fly fishing opportunities and ease of access. One of the goals of the Expo is to provide funding for continued conservation habitat improvements on this great fishery, ensuring that the tips you learn can be applied to exceptional fishing for years to come.

Riverfest — May 4th

Riverfest, Saturday Apri. 30, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

This on-the-river festival features Reptile World shows, Stream Safari, presentations by the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Fish and Fun Rodeo, canoe rides, kids arts & crafts, stream electro-fishing with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the always captivating Great South River Duck Race. Dedicated to environmental conservation and watershed stewardship in the Shenandoah River Basin, this family-friendly event promises interactive and educational activities for children of all ages and young-at-heart adults. Check out their full schedule for opportunities to participate in live fish species identification, learn frog calls, and meet the non-releasable falcons of the Virginia Wildlife Center.

Float the Waynesboro Water Trail

Riverfest, Saturday Apri. 30, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

If you prefer boats over banks for river exploration, the new Waynesboro Water Trail spans a scenie four-mile stretch of the South River with convenient boat ramps at Ridgeview Park and Basic City Park. With Class I and Class II rapids, this stretch offers the perfect mix of trout habitat, beginner-level paddling, and mid-way take outs for shorter float options. Connecting a downtown greenway and four separate city parks, this water trail is open every day sunrise to sunset.

Guides & Outfitters

Tommy Lawhorne works with Robert Dillard, of Winston Salem, N.C. during a guided fishing trip on the South River South River in Waynesboro, Va., Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

With half-day and all-day guided services along the South River, as well as expeditions for Shenandoah National Park Native Brook Trout and James River Smallmouth Bass, the South River Fly Shop offers full-service guides that introduce participants to premier fishing locations, providing expert instruction and ensuring that fishing gear is in tip-top form. Their helpful staff can also update you on the latest license requirements and delayed-harvest fishing regulations.

For independent adventurers ready to explore Shenandoah Valley trout streams and regional river floats, local outfitters Rockfish Gap and South River Fly Shop supply kayaks, fishing poles and equipment, bicycles, backpacks, and camping gear. With both sales and rental options available, their family-friendly services will have you floating in no time.

Whether wading, floating, or sitting on the river bank, reel in memories for years to come along the South River waterway.

The Lure of the Outdoors 5 “Ready to Roll” Adventures that Offer Natural Beauty and Easy Access

Late spring is the season of long evening daylight and beckoning weather. Luckily, Waynesboro offers the perfect mountain-town amenities for a sunset jog, a quick afternoon float, or an evening cycle through the Valley. These five adventures promise the mood-boosting benefits of time in nature, while utilizing the accessibility of local parks and backyard trail systems.

(1) Paddle the Waynesboro Water Trail

The Waynesboro Water Trail links five City parks in a four-mile run that includes a mix of Class I and II rapids, wilderness-level solitude, industrial skylines, and downtown take outs. With its surprising views into many unexpected corners of Waynesboro, it’s a unique way of exploring the City while staying cool, shaded, and on the water. Allow 2-3 hours to float the full South River Blueway from Ridgeview Park to Basic Park. A wide diversity of take out options help paddlers break the float into smaller sections or extend their trip to include Grand Caverns Park or the Port Republic confluence with the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Recommended water levels for the South River are 2.75’ to 4’ on the USGS Waynesboro Gauge. Or, check with Rockfish Gap Outfitters for the latest water level updates and deals on local kayak rentals.

(2) Stroll through the Parks

There’s not much more satisfying than a run with man’s best friend through open fields past freshly blooming parklands. Coyner Springs Park offers a rustic 145 acres that include nature trails, a leash-free dog park, kite-flying skies, disc golf, and enough wilderness to offer up frequent sightings of red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and foxes.

Joggers, baby strollers, and evening walkers find their riverside delights along the South River Greenway, a mile-long stretch of paved walking and biking surface that includes a river overlook, picnic shelter, and downtown access to after-walk drinks and dinner options.

(3) Cycle the Valley

Follow the South River along the base of Sawmill Ridge and the Blue Ridge Mountains in this evening, 12.5 mile bike ride called the Waynesboro Dooms Loop. For a longer, 35-mile pull, the Waynesboro to Grottoes Loop also hugs the river, offering a tour of the inflection between the Valley bottom and Blue Ridge topography, while still promising some of the flattest roads in Augusta County.

Both loops begin and end in downtown Waynesboro, promising enough in-town, gourmet calories to replenish the toughest ride. Cyclists are welcome along all three of Waynesboro Beerwerks Trail brewery destinations.

(4) Downtown Fly Fishing

The dinner-to-adventure jaunt can be shorter than a bike ride, as the South River’s Urban Trout Fishery offers fly fishing opportunities within a block of the downtown cultural core. Rare is the springtime day that a fisherman can’t be seen wading near the improved trout habitat and rock cascades of Constitution Park. Nearby South River Fly Shop offers equipment, gear, guided tours, and “big fish stories,” including a weekly Ties and Lies night. The South River itself offers spring-fed waters, ripping whitewater, easy parking, and exceptional catch-and-release trout fishing opportunities.

(5) Catch the Perfect Sunset (Sunset Park, Humpback Rocks)

Sunset Park, with sweeping views overlooking all of Waynesboro, remains under construction — but don’t be surprised to find weekly contingents of local mountain bikers building trails and readying its amenities for prime time. Outdoor enthusiasts seeking panoramic views needn’t wait, however. The Humpback Rocks trail system offers granite pinnacles in only one mile of climbing, with spectacular views of the Rockfish and Shenandoah Valleys. Longer excursions to Humpback Mountain (2 miles) and to a developed picnic area (4 miles) allows a choose your own adventure that can fit in an after-work nature-reset or expand to an all-day mountain top excursion.

Humpback Rocks trail includes both blue and white blazes, proof of its intersection with the nation’s “premier hiking path,” the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. “Day hikers” may encounter thru-hikers part-way through their adventure, with opportunities to swap stories and marvel that some of the mountains’ most breathtaking destinations are but backyard explorations from Waynesboro.

Two-Wheeled Touring Near Waynesboro – Bicycle and Motorcycle Itineraries

Sometimes the ride is as exhilarating and beautiful as any destination. If you’re looking for sweeping turns, windswept mountain vistas, or country roads to cruise, these bicycle and motorcycle itineraries are sure to inspire.

Pedaling on Pavement

Day Trip Tours from Waynesboro are plentiful. Beginners and family-friendly options include the South River Greenway, stretching from Constitution Park and meandering along the South River, which on Saturday mornings features the Waynesboro Farmers Market. Or stretch a little further with the 12.5 mile Waynesboro-to-Dooms Day Loop, which takes you along the South River as it flows north towards its confluence with the North River. Intermediate riders may love the Waynesboro-to-Grottoes Loop which, over the course of 35 miles, can include a tour of Grand Caverns in the town of Grottoes and passes the renowned horticulturalist André Viette’s extensive perennial garden and nursery on Long Meadow Road.  Don’t be shy about exploring other options, as Bike the Valley’s database of On Road rides remains extensive.

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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.

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Outdoor Adventure Challenges, Shenandoah-Valley Style

Toughest Rides, Hikes, and Climbs Near Waynesboro, VA

Think you need to trek out west for extreme outdoor adventures? Think again! Rugged hikes, epic mountain biking, and exhilarating climbs are all just a short drive from the urban bustle of Washington, D.C., Fredericksburg, and Richmond.  Base your adventures here in Waynesboro, VA and you’ll be smack in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley with quick access to Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, the Appalachian Trail, and the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountain Ranges.

But hold up, there’s a bonus!  Waynesboro has all the stuff you need when you come off the trail – gear repair, great local food, killer craft beer options, to-die-for coffee shops (yes, with wifi!), and friendly locals to answer your questions.  We’re an Appalachian Trail Community and the people you meet on the streets of Waynesboro may have just come off the trail themselves!  Get their take on the toughest adventures around and add them to this challenge list.

Pumped Up for Bikepacking

BikePacking.com

Ready to break free from the city and get down to basics? Rack the bike and gun it to the Shenandoah Valley to access the most extreme trail around.  Just remember, you’ve been warned: The Virginia Mountain Bike Trail is no joke.  It’s a 473-mile epic backcountry expedition along the length of Virginia’s Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountain Ranges.  You, your wheels, and your gear need to be at peak performance.  Before you even think about launching into the wilderness, spend some time at Rockfish Gap Outfitters in Waynesboro. Whether you’re looking for a tune-up, overhaul, or fresh new wheels and gear, these are the pros you want helping you prep.

Don’t have 10 sick days to allocate to The Virginia Mountain Bike Trail? Take a look instead at the Blue Ridge Wrangler. This challenging 158-mile loop starts and ends near Waynesboro, so it’s readily accessible for a long weekend getaway from the big city.

Into the Wild

Hiking Upward: Three Ridges

The Priest Wilderness is 5,994 acres of rugged beauty in west central Virginia.  To summit the Priest is to have conquered what is considered by many to be one of the toughest day hikes on the Appalachian Trail. This is due in part to an unrelenting elevation gain of 3,000 feet in one 4-mile stretch of the trail. As one hiker puts it, this is “the hike that gives you the most bang for your climbing buck in the entire state.”

For another intense workout, check out Three Ridges.  It’s another quad-burner, with nearly 4,000 feet in elevation gain.  But tackle this hike and you’re rewarded with vista after vista and small waterfalls.

On Top of the World

Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Looking for exhilaration and the best views around?  Then you’ll want to book a rock- or ice-climbing trip with Blue Ridge Mountain Guides.  Whether this is your first ascent or you’re a die-hard climber, these instructors can tailor climbs to fit your goals.  To share in your glory, rope in a few of your buddies and conquer the mountain (and your fears) together!

So which adventure is calling you?  “Schedule” those sick days and get ready to play hard in Waynesboro, Virginia!

Good for the Sole – Heartwarming Stories from an Appalachian Trail Community

The 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.) travels through 14 states on its course from Georgia to Maine.  A thru-hike along the length of the A.T. challenges hikers both physically and mentally and is frequently described as “life-changing.” 540 miles of the A.T. wind through Virginia, more than through any other state, and hikers often refer to the infamous “Virginia Blues” – the feeling that they’re not making progress and the state will never end.  Appalachian Trail Communities like Waynesboro, Virginia, know how important support and rejuvenation are to the weary hiker.

“We had a great trail magic moment on Mother’s Day when we were hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A local woman brought an amazing spread of sandwiches, pastries, chips, fresh fruit, and drinks to a place where the trail crossed the Parkway. She kept saying, ‘Call your mothers and let them know that there’s another mother out here taking care of you!’ It was so sweet.”  ~ Staige Davis and Andrea Parra, thru-hikers

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Live Like a Local on Your Next Outdoor Adventure with these Waynesboro, VA “Secret Spots”

When you make Waynesboro, Virginia, your basecamp for outdoor adventure, you have hundreds of trails and acres of natural goodness to explore. Where to start? For some quiet solitude with Mother Nature, pack a lunch and head to one of these less-traveled fishing holes, scenic vistas, or picnic spots.

Land a Quiet Fishing Hole

Backcountry fly fishing with South River Fly Shop.

Waynesboro’s renowned urban fishery is a destination for anglers around the world.  We’re also centrally located for fishing adventures throughout the Shenandoah Valley. For less-traveled fishing holes, pack your hiking boots and head to Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness or the Mill Creek and Coles Run Reservoirs tucked back in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Or book a backcountry fly fishing trip with South River Fly Shop, and you’ll experience some of the Shenandoah National Park’s best secluded fishing holes with the benefit of full service guiding and instruction!

Before you head out on the water, you can find the latest information on licenses and regulations at Fish Virginia First.

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Base Camp for Fall Bike Rides in Waynesboro, VA

Base Camp for Autumn Bike Rides in Waynesboro, VA

Helmet…check. Spare tubes…check. Sense of adventure…check. If you’re looking for a bicycling destination that offers a variety of picturesque landscapes and delectable wayside stops, pack your gear and head to the Shenandoah Valley. With Waynesboro, Virginia, as your base camp, you’ll have an abundance of on-road and off-road routes to choose from, taking you everywhere from the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the historic towns nestled below. Start your adventure rested and well-fed with a night at The Iris Inn or Belle Hearth Bed & Breakfast, then spend your day exploring one of these suggestions.

Sample the Fruits (and Grains) of the Valley

Flying Fox Vineyard

This Waynesboro to Nellysford loop will bring you past some of our region’s delicious offerings. There’s something for everyone’s taste. You’ll find stunning wines to match the views at Veritas Vineyard and Winery, the internationally acclaimed craft spirits of Silverback Distillery, and the cold taps at Wild Wolf Brewing Company.   Wild Wolf’s farm-to-fork restaurant makes this the perfect rest stop on your tour. Refreshed, pedal south to Flying Fox Vineyard to sample one of their Virginia Vermouths or premium wines. And no Nellysford loop would be complete without a stop at Bold Rock Hard Cider! For an abundance of additional grain, grape, berry, and fruit adult beverage options on your route, be sure to check out this map.

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Good Nature is Only a Step Away in Waynesboro, VA

Recreation is a way of life in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Residents and visitors to this beautiful Appalachian Trail Community have countless options for enjoying nature year-round.  And Waynesboro is proactive in expanding its Outdoor Recreation Network to provide easy, interconnected access to the hundreds of miles of trails, routes, and waterways running through and around the city.  Whether you like to walk, bike, run, or paddle, you’re only a step away in Waynesboro!

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