River Safety


James River Safety Checklist

Check The River Level

River levels fluctuate. At 5 feet and below, it is safe to tube. Above 5 feet requires a life jacket or flotation device.

Check The Weather

High winds and heavy rains can make boating and swimming dangerous. Be sure to know before you go.

Check The Water temperature

The temperature of the river can play a large role in determining what gear you need, and more.

Know Where Your Put-In & Take-out points are

Check your map for dams and other hazards, and have a back-up plan if you miss your take-out.

basic river safety


Go With Experienced Folks

We have a welcoming whitewater community, and many who are knowledgeable about the James. Travel with them or use a commercial trip to enjoy the James River safely.

Respect the River at all times

The James River is wild and powerful. It is also a place of great enjoyment and inspiration. Used safely, it provides joy to all who use it.

Leave No Trace

Be respectful of others, and remember that how you use the James today impacts users tomorrow.

Dam Safety

The low head dams in and around the park, Bosher’s Dam and Z-Dam, are extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all times while recreating on the James. You must use the available portages to bypass these dams. For more information on why low-head dams are dangerous please watch this video.

Strainer Safety

River strainers are created by obstructions – naturally formed or man-made objects – that allow water to pass through but “catch” larger objects, pinning them in place. In essence, they will strain the river of debris, boats, animals, and people, by “filtering” the water through the gaps in the obstruction – hence the name. They can be a dangerous feature of a river or a stream because they can cause you to become trapped against the blockage. Strainers are extremely hazardous and must be avoided.

Report an Issue Form

To report an emergency please call 911 immediately. Please use this form to report an issue in the Park such as maintenance or trail issues. Thank you.

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