Bookmark this page for current river conditions and related river links ... updated weekly! (Last Update: 5/2/06)
As a part of Mattaponi Canoe & Kayak's volunteer water quality monitoring effort for the Chesapeake Bay Program, we conduct weekly sampling at two upstream (non-tidal) stations on the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers. Selected data, combined with data from nearby USGS river gauging stations, are provided on the following tables. Descriptions of what is happening on both non-tidal and tidal sections of our Middle Peninsula rivers follow.
Flows on area rivers have fallen back nicely to near "normal" levels for this time of the years. River levels are sufficiently high that all sections of both the Mattaponi and Pamunkey are doable. The Mattaponi below the Zoar Nature Trail is always doable, but be sure to time your trip with the tidal currents you will encounter beginning a couple of miles above your take-out at Aylett. With nearly a four foot tidal amplitude, tidal currents on the Mattaponi are some of the strongest of any of the tributaries within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Most spring ephemerals are past flower and even the bright white flowers of the dogwoods are beginning to fade, while leaves have nearly fully expanded on trees along the river. Numerous heaths can be found in flower within the low-lying, acidic swamplands along the Mattaponi, including Fetterbush, Highbush Blueberry and Swamp Azalea. Also, keep an eye out for the very striking and beautiful Fringetree, a large shrub which produces lacy clusters of greenish-white flowers with their distinctive long, thin petals. A member of the Olive family, the flowers of the Fringetree will ultimately produce a drupe, looking very much like a small olive.
The advance of spring has pretty much silenced the Spring Peepers for this season. Replacing them are the occasional calls of the American Toad and Bull Frog late into the night. For the lucky paddler of the swamps, one can catch a glimpse of a group of newborn goslings in hot pusuit of their parents (the resident Canada Geese) or a congo line of "sliders" (probably Painted Turtles or Red Bellied Sliders) taking advantage of the warm days to clamber out of the still cold river waters and bask in the sun on a log.
The extensive, freshwater marshes that flank tidal sections of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey during the summer and fall are well on their way, with Arrow Arum and Yellow Pond Lilly now fully emerged. Still ... these wetlands have a long way to go before they support the diverse, vibrant vegetation that will characterize these areas come late summer and fall.
Anadromous fish (those that live in salt water but migrate upriver into fresher waters to spawn) continue to make their spring runs up the Mattaponi and Pamunkey. Shad, and the occasional Herring are still being caught, but with much less regularity now as their spawning "season" starts to wind down. At one time, Herring migrated up these rivers in such large numbers during their spawning runs, that "pick-up truckloads" could be harvested through "dipping". Those days have long passed now with the Herring fishery being only a fraction of what it once was.
Expect somewhat smaller than normal tidal fluxes (neap tides) over the weekend of 5/6-5/7, associated with the waning first quarter moon (Friday). High tide at Aylett (Mattaponi River) will occur mid to late morning (9:45AM on Saturday and 10:40AM on Sunday). Keep in mind that tidal currents (usually what is of interest to the paddler) are modified by the amount of water coming from upstream (non-tidal) sources. When upstream flows are high (as they are now), the timing of the "switch" to incoming current is delayed and, for outgoing, is advanced. Feel free to contact us for additional tidal information on other days or at other locations on our Middle Peninsula rivers.
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