Thursday, October 6, 2022

Just around the riverbend: James River Association opens registration for guided river tours

James River Association increased tours for their “Connect with the James” program after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled many of their in-person events back in 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the James River Association)

As the weather continues to warm up, the James River Association (JRA) is launching registration for the 2021 season of their popular Connect with the James” guided river trips.

Opportunities include canoeing, kayaking, and pontoon boat tours in both the Greater  Williamsburg and Richmond areas.

The programs are open to the public and provide an experience to enjoy the water while learning about the wildlife, history and natural resources of the James River and its tributaries.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the James River Association has been committed to continuing the work of getting people outside and connecting with the James River, but in a safe, socially distant, and fun environment,” Aaron Bouchard, JRA’s Master Captain and Environmental Educator, said in a statement from a news release on Mar. 1.

Last year, COVID-19 restrictions cancelled the majority of group events, including one of JRA’s fundraisers while moving another to a virtual-only meeting.

“We also had to pivot many of our education programs to online/virtual learning (as opposed to river-based experiences). Additionally, many of the partner events we would have participated in (festivals and events like Riverrock, James RiverFest, Pedal the Parkway) were unfortunately cancelled due to COVID,” Erin Hillert, spokesperson for JRA, said in an email on Mar. 3.

In response to these cancellations, JRA increased the number of “Connect with the James” trips they offered, starting in July 2020 that ran through last October. The guided trips provided the public a chance to safely be on a guided paddle canoe trip on the James while still being able to appreciate the beauty and relaxation of being outdoors, Hillert noted.

JRA plans to replicate this robust schedule for 2021, with trips running from March through October.

“Our Connect with the James program provides a great opportunity to join JRA staff and educators on the water and to gain a renewed or continued appreciation for what the James River can offer us,” Bouchard said.

Highlights of the 2021 season include guided canoe tours of Powhatan Creek in James City County, Turkey Island Creek in Henrico County, sturgeon-sighting trips on JRA’s Spirit of the James pontoon boat near downtown Richmond, and hybrid trips to Presquile Wildlife National Refuge, which will combine a pontoon boat ride with hiking, birding, or canoeing options, according to the news release.

“We are excited to once again partner with James City County Parks and Recreation to bring Connect with the James to the Williamsburg area,” Emily Hinson, JRA’s Lower James Regional Outreach Manager, said in the news release. “Our Williamsburg trips give participants the opportunity to explore Powhatan Creek, which boasts freshwater marshes, cypress swamps, and wildlife viewing.”

The Powhatan Creek tours are free, and registration opens two weeks before each trip is scheduled to take place. The tours will launch from the James City County Marina once its construction is completed. Prices for the other guided canoe tours and programs can be found on JRA’s website here.

Pre-registration is required for all programs, with COVID-19 safety guidelines strictly enforced. JRA also requires participants to provide their own canoes, kayaks, paddles, and personal flotation devices.

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