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A Rivanna River Tour of Charlottesville

If you’ve had trouble finding an outfitter to take a trip on the Rivanna River near Charlottesville, one local couple has launched a business to fill that gap, and help explorers take advantage of the physical, and aesthetic, features the river offers. WMRA’s Brit Moorer reports.

For a couple who’s always found themselves enjoying nature and being on the water,  Gabe and Sonya Silver are living the dream.

GABE SILVER: Keep paddling ..yup, there you go… wooohhhoooo!

Navigating the currents on the Rivanna…. that’s life for the young Charlottesville couple on any given day.

GABE: We both grew up in this area. We both grew up outside and playing.

On the perfect spring day in May.. I stepped into a canoe as the Silvers led me on a hour and a half tour down the Rivanna.. a glimpse into their world. The ride… for a not-so in touch with nature kind of girl… left me wanting more.

Gabe: There’s all these big turtles basking in the sun on these logs and that’s the little splashes we’re hearing, they see our canoe.  

It’s the feeling…the swishing of the water in the background, that puts Gabe and Sonya Silver at ease.

SONYA SILVER: It’s right in our backyard. The fact that you can have that experience, that wonderful, unique calming time in nature and you drove 10 minutes from your house or you rode your bike down here and you get on the river for an hour or two.

It’s an experience they’d like everyone living in and around Charlottesville to have.

GABE: I think rivers have been places that were really important to the economy early on in terms of transportation, so like, Charlottesville wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Rivanna and Jefferson wouldn’t have built Monticello where he did if it weren’t for the Rivanna.”

The Charlottesville couple has launched a new outfitting business: Rivanna River Company.

GABE: We hear from other places, they’re sort of surprised that there’s not a paddling outfitter here in town because mostly Charlottesville is a pretty outdoorsy place and maybe the place they lived before had some similarities to Charlottesville and they’re just like yeah I’ll just find a place I can rent a kayak.

But until now, finding that place has been difficult.  The Silver’s operation is a one-stop shop for people who want to experience the Rivanna River, but don’t know where to start.

GABE: It’s a big park that if people know how to access, which part of which, as an outfitter, they can rent equipment or have a guide, then it becomes an amenity for more people.

The Silvers are providing greater access to a piece of nature they believe is underutilized.

GABE: I would love if everybody in Charlottesville would have a chance to, just one trip a year. Spend two hours on the river every summer and just know  your geography, it’s so. The way rivers cut through the terrain is just so fundamental to geography and Charlottesville is here along the banks for a river for a reason.

In addition to outfitting river-goers, the company also offers guided tours -- a sort of moving history lesson where Gabe and Sonya will share stories and facts about the area often overshadowed by the more popular destinations.

Gabe: Jefferson had the vision that he could have a port in Monticello that would basically be an indirect connection to ocean going vessels that would go to Europe and back. On our longer trips, we’ll go through where you can actually see some of the dams and locks and the canal system that was in place at that time.”

The couple hopes to encourage people to put down the cellphones…

Sonya : Giving people a place where they can really have quality time together

..and really take it all in.  

Gabe:  If someone here in Charlottesville doesn’t know much or anything about the Rivanna and they get on it they’re going to have just a slightly different appreciation of where they live.

Brit Moorer was a freelance journalist for WMRA from 2015 - 2016.