It’s a new year and with that comes a new expedition season at the James River Association! If you are currently a rising 9th 10th or 11th grade student within the James River Watershed you can apply to join this year’s cohort of expedition participants!

JRLE is a year-long commitment. You and your cohort will participate in one of three 5-day expeditions on the James River. You’ll travel a large section of the river by canoe, camping along the banks and learning valuable leadership skills with your peers. Your group will learn to manage river navigation, camp and cooking skills and practice environmental science gaining insight into the river’s health. We divide the expedition location options into the Upper, Middle and Lower James allowing for a variety of ecological and recreational experiences as well as the chance to see a new part of the watershed.

I grew up at the beginning of the lower James, below the fall-line in Richmond. When I was first introduced to the Expeditions, I was excited to explore upriver from Richmond. I helped lead the Middle expedition last year. We started in James River State Park then ended at Bremo Bluff downriver from Scottsville. What a beautiful section of Virginia that not many folks get to see. There aren’t major interstates near this part of the river. The night’s are so calm you can notice the quiet breeze through the leaves and the subtle signs of wildlife uninterrupted by noise. We had excellent weather, adventurous paddles and even some decent camp cooking once students got the hang of our systems. But regardless of weather, water or meal successes what matters most is a good group. When determined participants come together with a willingness to challenge themselves and support each other and learn, that’s when life-long lessons, friendships and memories are made.

Graduates from our program have gone to college focusing their studies on environmental science and related subjects. A former JRLE graduate named Chris is focusing his degree on environmental law! However, even if the environmental field is not your career calling, participating in JRLE is still worthwhile. Hone your leadership skills by practicing organization, planning, problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution, and self-reflection. These skills are transferable to any job and will serve you well no matter your life path.

If all this sounds appealing to you, I encourage you to apply today! The application involves a handful of essay questions and requires two letters of recommendation. Applications are due no later than April 3rd 2024. You must be at least a rising highschooler to apply and live within the James River Watershed. Applicants will be notified by April 15th of their acceptance into the program. If accepted, a deposit of $200 will be requested to secure your place in the program. This money will be put towards a student designed capstone project at the end of your experience. Financial assistance is available as needed.

Accepted applicants will be invited to an orientation with their parents/guardians where we will introduce ourselves and answer all your questions about the expedition experience and overall program. Below is a link to our website where you can find the application. I look forward to seeing you out on the river!