he Maury River begins and ends in Rockbridge County. Scenic and sometimes wild, the Maury roars to life in spring, tempting kayakers with a thrilling six-mile romp through the gorge at Goshen Pass. With two Class IV rapids – Devils Kitchen and Corner Rapid – this seasonal run, which ends at Rockbridge Baths, is Virginia's most challenging whitewater. It's typically runnable from March to June.
Herons and hawks scan for lunch along the Maury as it meanders from Jordan's Point in Lexington to Buena Vista downstream. Jordan's Point was a bustling commercial and transportation center in the 1800s. Today, forgotten canal locks stir up ripples on the eight-mile stretch of river between the two cities. Sharp-eyed paddlers may spot coyotes and minx on shore and the occasional bald eagle overhead. Perfect for beginners – and inner tubes – this welcoming stretch of the Maury is usually runnable year-round.
The Maury crashes into the James in a jumble of rocks and rapids beside the town of Glasgow. Enjoy a picnic near the confluence of the two rivers then drop your kayak or canoe into the James and paddle downstream to Balcony Falls. Beginner whitewater never looked so sweet, and the rapids can be run year round.
Sunbathing might not qualify as adventurous, but trust us, the view from shore at Goshen Pass will surely take your breath away. Along this three-mile gorge, carved by the wild Maury River, you can soak up the sun on a boulder, cool off in the river, or simply ogle the blooming rhododendrons. Students from Washington & Lee and VMI have kicked back here for decades.
Give paddleboarding a try. Smooth waters cooperate best, and the middle Maury River is a great place to give it a go.
For kayak, canoe, and inner tube rentals contact Wilderness Canoe Company in Natural Bridge Station. They will shuttle you to and from the river. For a list of access points along the Maury and James Rivers, and information about the various rapids, click here.
Where to Swim
The top three requirements for the perfect swimming hole? Scenic, refreshing, and hard-to-find. The Ben Salem Wayside on Route 11 may not qualify as hard-to-find, but when it's 90 degrees outside and rising, two out of three ain't bad. Look for a picnic area, an historic canal lock, and plenty of parking.
A little bit harder to reach? Cave Mountain Lake. This 7-acre lake, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is part of the Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area. It shimmers in a leafy mountain setting not far from Natural Bridge. In addition to swimming, come here for hiking, birdwatching, and camping.
For a top-notch swimming hole fed by waterfalls and hugged by boulders, try Panther Falls. A ¼-mile hike along the Pedlar River leads to this magical place, just over the Rockbridge County line. We can't guarantee solitude, but people-watching here can add to the fun. From Lexington, drive 10 miles east on Route 60. Cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway then take your first right onto Panther Falls Rd. Drive three miles and park in the lot.