Refreshing waters

River-based outings end with summer

Posted: August 23, 2013

Conpanies such as Shenandoah River Outfitters offer tubing, kayak and canoe trips on the Shenandoah River. (Photo by DN-R File / Evan Dyson)
Forty three years ago, the Shenandoah River became a source of thrills when people stopped simply viewing the water and more adventurers started riding it. Today, those same adventures remain thanks to Shenandoah River Outfitters, a family owned company founded in 1970. Whether you are searching for a relaxing trip or something more thrilling, there’s an adventure for you.

From two to 200
Joe Sottosanti had been canoeing the Shenandoah River with his friends when he realized other people would enjoy some of the same thrills.

He and his family founded Shenandoah River Outfitters, which began as a little store with two canoes and a handful of customers. But after responding to an article in The Washington Post that claimed there were no canoes for rent along the Shenandoah River, Joe and his little business started to become known throughout the area.

Nancy Sottosanti, a partner of Shenandoah River Outfitters, says that over the last 43 years, the company has remained a staple of the community by responding to what people are looking to experience. “We’ve just kept adding things as we see people needing and wanting different things to do in this area,” she explained.

In 1976, they built their first canoe, The Shenandoah, and continued production for about 15 years. During the ’70s and ’80s, they focused on canoeing, but began offering tubing in the ’90s when people expressed an interest. They also built 10 cabins in the ’90s, in addition to outfitting campers. They continue to offer the cabins for rent year around and campgrounds until Nov. 1.

However, the main focus remains water adventures, expanding from those first two canoes to more than 200.

“We started with two canoes to a business that now puts out 600 to 800 people on a Saturday,” Nancy said.

The family business offers tubing, canoeing, kayaking and rafting, seven days a week, along the South Fork of the Shenandoah. The river is surrounded by mountains on both sides, with the Shenandoah Mountain and National Park to the east, and the Massanutten Mountain to the west.

Because the South Fork is surrounded by a National Forest and National Park, which are undeveloped, the area remains surrounded by “beautiful woods and beautiful forests that bring a lot of wildlife down here,” Nancy said. Adventurers have seen critters from bobcats to rabbits.

However you decide to ride along the river with nature surrounding you, now’s the time to get out there. With the weather cooling and the seasons about to change, water adventures are coming to an end for this year; so make sure to “catch summer before it’s over!” Nancy said.

Tubing can be a great choice for those looking to casually enjoy the waters and take in the view.

“Tubing is a very relaxing time,” Nancy said. “People float along and talk with their family and friends.”

But don’t get too relaxed. With a foot and half to two foot waves, make sure you’re ready for a thrilling ride along the 3 ½ mile course through Compton’s Rapid — the one bigger rapid on the South Fork. It’s a Class 2 at higher water and Class 1.5 at lower water, Nancy explained. “It is a beautiful spot on the river with a high cliff, a sandy beach and a great swimming area that is up to 20 feet deep,” she said.

Tubing trips do depend on the water level but typically lasts around 4 ½ hours, so pack a cooler with food and drinks. Trips begin at 10:30 a.m. and noon, and it’s best to arrive at least 30 minutes early.

Tubing costs $22 per person. Trips end after Labor Day or mid September at the latest, depending on the weather.

Canoeing and kayaking
If it’s exercise you’re looking for, canoeing or kayaking may be just the adventure for you. Canoeing and kayaking offer the same beautiful view of the Shenandoah, but require more involvement as you paddle along.

Canoe and kayak trips begin at 8 a.m. and the last adventurers are out by 1 p.m., so Nancy encourages people to come early and enjoy a morning drift along the river.

There are several different canoe and kayak trips, depending on experience. For beginners, consider the three hour flat water trip, which is also excellent for fishing. If you’re a beginner looking for a shorter trip, they also offer a one hour flat water trip.

For more of thrill, Shenandoah River Outfitters offers beginner white water trips that can be three, four or five hours, with two ledge drops and a ride through Compton’s Rapid.

Canoeing is $23 per person and kayaking is $36. Canoe and kayak adventures continue through the end of October or first of November, continuing into fall.

For those with families and children younger than 5, rafting might make a good option. Because of the waves, children under five are not allowed to tube, and canoeing and kayaking are too strenuous, but rafting provides the same thrill for younger ages.

There are two or four hour white water trips available, both of which go through Compton’s Rapid.

Rafting adventures are $22 per person, and rafts hold three to six people. Rafting trips continue through end of October to first of November.

For all water adventures, make sure to wear shoes — no flip-flops — and a bathing suit, or whatever you’re willing to get wet. Consider making reservations online, especially on the weekend, as spots tend to fill quickly.

For more information, visit or find the company on Facebook.

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