High Water Levels Force James River Float Co. to Change Plans

Madison Heights, VA - July 4 weekend is usually the busiest weekend for the James River Float company in Madison Heights, but owners say this has been one of the wettest starts to summer they've ever seen.

The company had to cancel several trips earlier this week due to the weather. And Saturday, they had to take the people that had already scheduled trips on the James to another river in Nelson County.

Ashtan McCullum planned a fun day of tubing a while ago. Her family is in Lynchburg from Kentucky just for the holiday weekend.

McCullum says she had scheduled a trip with the James River Float Company, but heavy rainfall put a damper on her plans.

"Oh no! I was like, 'There's no way we're going to get to do this, and so we would call every day...water levels just aren't good, it's not safe. We'd call the next day..."

The high water levels are why the company had to cancel several trips this week. The rain was gone Saturday, but the water level was still at 8 feet.

"That's not a good level for kayaking or inner tubing," said James River Float Co. Owner Mason Basten.

Basten says they usually cut off trips when it reaches 6 feet. Anything above that makes it really hard to have control when going down rapids.

"The other big hazard is the water is up in the trees on the banks so if you try to land on a bank, there's nothing but trees. And trees are what we call a strainer and are very dangerous," Basten said.

Instead, the company took all the groups that were supposed to float down the James to the Tye River in Nelson County. In addition to a long bus ride, the trip down the Tye require guides.

But Basten says floating down the Tye is a treat. They usually only get to take about five trips a year to the river.

"More staff, more planning, more vehicles, longer shuttles all of that stuff, but for the customer, it's well worth it," Basten said.

Basten says he expects the James River to get back to its normal level Sunday. He also says if people want to plan a float trip, they should check out the water levels to make sure it's safe no matter where they go.

You can check on area river water levels here.