By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Q. I am planning a canoeing or rafting trip in Virginia or West Virginia. What are my best options?
Justin West, Fairfax
A. The whitewater runs deep -- and fast -- in West Virginia, one of the country's top spots to raft, kayak or canoe. "West Virginia is very rich in whitewater opportunities," says Mark Singleton, executive director of American Whitewater, a nonprofit whitewater advocacy group. "More so than Virginia."
West Virginia's topography and rainfall has created river courses that are flanked by rugged, mountainous beauty and range from challenging to calm, bumpy to pond-flat. The state's best-known rivers are the New River Gorge and the Gauley, both of which are within a half-day's drive of D.C. The 53-mile New River can accommodate various skill levels, from beginner canoers on mellow Class I and II water to adrenaline-junkie rafters and kayakers on Class IV and V rapids. The 25-mile Gauley is more of an advanced river, with big water, steep drops and many Class IV-plus rapids.
Virginia also boasts some big-name rivers with little to giant action. The Shenandoah's flat water is ideal for family or neophyte canoers, and the Potomac is popular among canoers and kayakers. Richmond's James River offers Class III rapids in an urban setting.
When planning a trip, decide upon the section of the river you wish to explore and the length of the ride. For instance, you could put in at Thurman, a semi-abandoned mining town in central West Virginia, and spend a full day on the lower section of the New. For a multi-day excursion, start paddling in North Carolina, near the town of Boone, and follow the New downstream to West Virginia. When night falls, camp overnight in designated sites along the shore. For the Gauley, start in Summersville, where the dam is released each season from September to October. (The New's season, which is not dam-dependent, lasts from April to October.) On the James, you can start canoeing right from Richmond, or paddle through three states along the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.
If you have gear, are experienced and research the river beforehand, you can spend very little money -- mainly for transportation and sundries. If, however, you prefer a guide and require equipment, expect to pay between the mid-$30s and $120. American Whitewater ( http://www.americanwhitewater.org/ ) lists companies affiliated with the trade organization.
I'll be traveling from Venice to Split and would like to take a boat or train. Any ideas?
Anna Wilmer, Reston
During the summer and into early fall, boats and trains regularly travel between Venice and Split, providing a scenic and adventurous ride from Italy to Croatia. However, be sure to check times and schedules, since some boats depart only a few times a week and halt service once the air chills.
For the easiest and most direct route, Daniela Pavelic, a travel consultant with the Croatian National Tourist Office in New York, recommends taking the Enermar ferry from Chioggia, a port near Venice, to Split. The trip on the Italian vessel takes about 12 hours. Info: http://www.tris.it/ . A less direct but equally panoramic route involves the Venezia Lines' hydrofoil ( http://www.venezialines.com/ ) from Venice to a port town on the Istria Peninsula, such as Pula, or Rovinj, followed by a bus transfer to Rijeka and an overnight Jadrolinija ferry to Split ( http://www.jadrolinija.hr/ ). If you prefer land to water, board a train from Venice to Split, with transfers in Zagreb. The trip can take up to 14 hours. Info: http://www.raileurope.com/ .
If you have some time between boats, Pavelic suggests exploring the peninsula, a charming alternative to the Dalmatian Coast. For info: Croatian National Tourist Board, 800-829- 4416, http://us.croatia.hr/ .
I'm looking for a road map of Puerto Rico or San Juan. Can you help?
Ana Schwartz, Charlottesville
To plot your Puerto Rican road trip before you go, Candida's World of Books (1541 14th St. NW, 202-667-4811 http:// ) has two maps in stock: a laminated map of Puerto Rico and San Juan by Tuffy ($7.95) and a folded paper map by International Travel Maps ($9.95). Both have highway info, city map insets, an index of locations, etc. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (800-866-7827, http://www.gotopuertorico.com/ ) also posts regional and city maps on its Web site (click on Regional Travel Planners, then pick your region).
On the island, pick up maps at any car rental agency, gas station or pharmacy. The free publication Que Pasa, available in airports, hotels and info centers, also features maps -- but not as detailed as those found in gas stations.
For first-time drivers in Puerto Rico, Salvador Sopo, a communications supervisor at the tourism company, compares the traffic in San Juan with New York's. "Sometimes it's crazy," he says. "The traffic is heavy every day."
Send queries by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).