Saucony Ride

Fed by whatever water spills over the Lake Springfield dam, the river moves slowly, making for an easy float.

I knew going in it wouldn't be the glass clear Current or Buffalo. Because of its proximity to 160,000 people, the James River near Springfield is turbid, not clear. I launched my kayak through a brown froth that had collected against the shoreline and plucked some foam worm containers and plastic bottles out of the water during the first 100 yards.

The big bird, cloaked in the mottled brown feathers of its youth, hops from rock to rock eyeing me, not yet fearful of my species.

Saucony Ride

A rustling of dark feathers on Saucony Ride shore catches my eye, but the creature is so deep in shade I can't quite make out what it is.

James River Outfitters, at Galena, rents canoes, cabins, camping areas and bus shuttles. 417 891 1550

Saucony Ride

But paddlers beware: Reebok Crossfit Shoes Nano 6.0

Here are a few launching places close to Reebok Club C 85 Vintage

Near as I can tell it's a speckled king snake, probably waiting for a small bird to stop by for dinner.

I count nearly a dozen great blue herons along the way and wonder if they use the dense forest along the river as a rookery to raise their young. A full grown bald eagle launches from the top of a sycamore tree, and about a minute later I have my close encounter with its youngster onshore.

Springfield:

a tangle of downed trees. There's a clear path through debris, but the sound of rushing water off to my left sparks my curiosity. I follow the sound and discover a small, cold crystal clear stream pouring from the mouth of a cave, its opening partially hidden by an abundance of ferns, weeds and small trees. Cool air flowing from the cave provides welcome relief from the sun.

Saucony Ride

I'm paddling a stretch of the James that skirts the south edge of Springfield. It's about a 3 mile trip, launching from the base of the Lake Springfield dam and flowing westward to where the river crosses beneath South Campbell Avenue.

Saucony Ride

I paddle on and soon see the river veering to the right through Reebok Nano 6.0 Gum

The river takes a sudden right turn, and I suddenly encounter a tall stone bluff hundreds of yards long rising to my left, weeping clear, cool water from small springs along its length.

Saucony Ride

Saucony Ride

It's a surprising feature, a good 30 or 40 feet tall and standing oddly out of place from the rest of the river's forest cover. I spy a snake looped casually around the base of a small tree growing from the rock.

Once on the other side, the river picks up speed as it's squeezed through a narrow section of shoreline. I'm moving fast enough to warrant putting the camera in its dry bag until things slow down a bit.

The eagle swings its head from side to side, clearly curious about this strange thing in a green boat passing by. Satisfied I won't harm it, the eagle flaps 10 feet up into a tree and settles in for more watching. I've been on the James River for less than 10 minutes and already it has far exceeded my expectations.

There's a low water road crossing the river about an eighth of a mile downstream from the dam. I step out and pull my kayak across it. You do not want to get your canoe or kayak caught up against the edge, especially near where the river flows beneath a small elevated portion of the road.

Drifting quietly in my kayak, I can tell it's big, most likely a vulture feasting on a dead fish. I zoom the camera lens for a close up and am astonished to see not a vulture but a young bald eagle looking straight at me.

Saucony Ride

Saucony Ride

I've found Camp Cora Spring and cave. Once a popular fishing camp, the cave goes farther into the side of a hill than I dare explore. I walk carefully inside and shoot some photos. Raccoon footprints in the mud show that I am not the only one who's been here recently.

´╗┐Stretch of James River offers chance for urban float trip

Saucony Ride

Saucony Ride

But farther downstream I find a much cleaner river which, though still muddy, is filled with gar, bass and turtles and an amazing assortment of birds above.

Saucony Ride

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