Visitors to the James River Watch website can check paddling, fishing and swimming conditions
at a number of spots on the river from Iron Gate to the Chesapeake Bay. This demonstrates
paddling conditions on a recent Friday at the boat landing in Buchanan.

Thinking about hitting the Upper James River to paddle, fish and/or swim over the July 4th holiday, but wonder what the river’s like— is it safe for boating and swimming?

Hundreds of folks are expected on the river in Botetourt, and according to the James River Association (JRA), one of the most common questions it receives from the public is whether it is safe to swim in certain parts of the James River.

To help answer this question, the JRA launched a water quality monitoring initiative in 2013 across the James River watershed— and one of those monitoring sites is at the Buchanan boat landing.

Through this program, volunteers take weekly water samples and record them every Friday afternoon to the James River Watch website.

That means anyone planning a river trip can visit www.JamesRiverWatch.org every Friday until Labor Day to see river conditions on the Upper James all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

The site provides updates on boating, fishing and swimming (bacteria counts) conditions.

According to the James River Watch website, fecal coliform (E. coli) bacteria concentrations over 235 cfu/100 ml may increase the likelihood for swimmers to contract illness in case water is ingested.

The bacteria count at Buchanan as been as low as 0 this spring, and was 34 on the most recent site update. On the Maury River near Buena Vista it was 100, and on the James River at Bent Creek downstream from Lynchburg it was 34— all “green light” readings for swimming.

UJR Water Trail website updated

The Upper James River Water Trail website has been updated as well this spring and is live.

It features maps of the recently extended water trail that now includes the Maury River in Rockbridge County and the James River from Iron Gate to Snowden below Glasgow.

The website is www.upperjamesriverwatertrail.com.