James River Leadership Expeditions


The James River Leadership Expeditions (JRLE) is a year-long leadership program for all high school students who are interested in advocating for the future of the James River. The goal of JRLE is to engage, develop, train, inspire, and help prepare participants in taking personal and community-wide action to address issues facing the James River. The JRLE is one of the best learning experiences for young people, as traveling to an entirely new part of Virginia pushes the boundaries of our comfort zones, both mentally and physically.

As part of JRLE, students commit to helping communities realize the benefits of a healthy James River and support protecting the river with a community capstone project. By joining JRLE, participants get the chance to take on an exciting year-long challenge where they develop leadership skills and working knowledge that will help them in higher education and/or their career.

2023 Press Release



For more information

If your group or organization would like more information about the James River Leadership Expeditions please contact our staff at expeditions@thejamesriver.org.

During the James River Leadership Expeditions, the James River Association education staff provides expert instruction on paddling and camping skills, teambuilding, wildlife identification, water quality monitoring, history, river ecology, and policy. The safety of the trip participants is a top priority; staff who manage the program are trained in canoe instruction, Wilderness First Responder, and CPR.

If selected, a deposit of $200 will be requested to secure a position in the program; all supplies, gear, food, training, and instruction are included. This fee can be waived or reduced if it prevents participation. 

The James River Leadership Expeditions gives students the opportunity to bond with other students that share their passion for the environment and develop their network of support. They will also meet environmental professionals with different backgrounds and knowledge to build a network of contacts when applying for schools, jobs, and so much more. They will learn about environmental careers and programs they can pursue. The students will also learn about the history, wildlife, and water quality of the James River. The JRLE is an immersive, hands-on learning experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.

“If I could tell students one thing, it’s that you will never experience something like this again. The James River Association is offering an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. To spend one week on the James River, technology-free, with good company, is something very hard to find. When the opportunity presents itself, take it.”

Nash McDowell


2023-2024 Program Timeline

January 1st, 2023: Applications open
April 3rd, 2023: Application period ends
April 15th, 2023: Applicants informed of their acceptance
late May: Orientation at JRA’s office in downtown Richmond

Session 1:
Middle Expedition: 6/26/23 – 6/30/23
Lower Expedition: 7/10/23 – 7/14/23
Upper Expedition: 7/31/23 – 8/4/23

Session 2:
Saturday, November 11th to Sunday, November 12th – James River Ecology School – Overnight at Presquile Wildlife Refuge in Chesterfield

Session 3:
Saturday, January 20th

Session 4:
Saturday, May 4th – Luck Company Headquarters in Goochland, Virginia

James River Leadership Expeditions Application

2023-2024 Application period opens in January 2023

What is needed for the application:

  • Student Contact Information
  • 300 Word Essay
  • 5 Short Answer Questions
  • 2 Teacher/Mentor Letters of Recommendation

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Information for Current 2022-2023 Participants

Session 1:
Upper: July 18-22
Lower: August 1-5

Five-day, overnight expedition on the river. Session One is offered during the summer as three different week-long experiences. During Session One, JRLE removes barriers and allows for our youth to engage in new experiences that they may have not been exposed to before. With our education staff, youth are given unparalleled access to local culture and history.

Session 2: November 5th & 6th, 2022 (overnight)
Building Project Vision & Stewardship. In Session Two, students will have the opportunity to brainstorm community capstone projects.

Session 3: January 7th, 2023
Inspiring Our Commitment & Working Groups. Session Three includes revisiting personality styles, self-awareness, and relationship management. We will review public speaking skills with demonstrations and games.

Session 4: May 6th, 2023
Leadership Launch and Environmental Symposium. In Session Four, students will celebrate all their achievements from the year with JRLE and present their capstone project.