canoeing on the james River

Have you always wanted to take your family on the river, but let the fear of tantrums scare you off? The secret to successful family river trips is something we muse over and practice on the regular here at Appomattox River Company. It's in our DNA. We've written about it many times. From whitewater kayaking to kayak fishing on the James River, our history is filled with family paddling adventures.

As the marketing guy for Appomattox River Company, I'm always taking my kids on the water. As they've aged, the tips and good practices have changed. I'll highlight a few from our last trip and include many of the lessons my wife and I have learned over the years.

First up, everyone should be wearing a PFD. If you won't, how will your kids understand the importance? Everyday we read about another kayaker drowning. Most of the folks were not wearing their PFD. Me? I always want to stack the deck in my favor that I'll come home. A PFD helps. Our whole family wears them (see below.)
Check out our selection here: Lifejackets 

kayaking with kids

Our kids are a little older now, so we can plan lunch spots. A good tip is to make out your float trip and know good locations for combining activities. We like to find islands, etc that allow us to beach the kayaks, go for a swim, and then eat lunch.

Recently we came to appreciate the simplicity of cold pizza as family river food. It's soo easy. Combine with a tuperware full of summer fruit and you've got a great fast meal.

Eating pizza by the river

In the early days it was all about snacks. Lots of snacks. And snacks are still important. But now they want to be involved. They want to paddle. They want to fish. Make sure you allow them the opportunity. It will pay off years later.

My eldest daughter has gotten to the point where she can paddle bow position in the canoe, fish and compete in the family fishing competitions. These are memories worth making.

mother and daughter canoeing

kid fishing

Our girls are at the age where everything on the river provides a teachable moment. It's awesome. And on top of that, nature provides many an opportunity to marvel at the magic of life. This dragonfly and his crew entertained my youngest and I for quite some time as we floated.

Dragonfly on a paddle

Our youngest isn't yet interested in paddling, so while my wife and our oldest paddle our Blue Hole Prowler canoe, the youngest sits in between my legs on a sit on top. I always pick a flat deck model like the Eddyline C-135 so that she has plenty of room to chill. And chill she does. She's happy with a small fishing net, helping me scoop up smallies as I catch them. The key to keeping her entertained is to keep catching!

Smallmouth bass caught in kayak

On this day my wife came storming out of the gates, catching 3 smallmouth to my zero. My eldest caught 2. But it was Father's Day, and the river gods smiled upon me. I ended up with 4 to win the day. Of course, here is a secret tip. If your wife depends on you to supply fishing knowledge and baits, you can hinder her momentum. For instance, if she breaks off on "a big one!" you can tie on a less than ideal bait to slow her down. I'm not saying I did this...but I may have.

wife catching smallmouth bass

Ultimately, it was a near perfect day on the James River. We floated from Scottsville to Hardware, about 4.5 miles. It's a beautiful stretch that allows for plenty of stops among the islands. The James River is such an amazing resource. We are blessed in the great state of Virginia to have soo many excellent paddling destinations.

Father's Day has become a day in which I'm granted the chance to enjoy doing the things I love, with the people I love. There is nothing better in this world.

dad and kids

In the end the greatest tip is to make sure your passion comes through to your kids. Focus on sharing the moments with them.

We're constantly learning about what our girls need to enjoy a day out. Learn what your kids need, and try to incorporate them into the day. If you do, it will inevitably enhance your time together.

Use sunscreen, pack snacks, plan for lunch, plan for swimming, and be sure to share the sights and sounds you love with those whom you share your love.

This Father's Day we accomplished all those goals, and I won the fishing competition. Win, Win.