To experience the Harpers Ferry natural environment was ‘worth a voyage across the Atlantic’ to Thomas Jefferson. Don’t miss it.
By Bonnie Williamson
In 1783, Thomas Jefferson once stood on Jefferson Rock, now part of the Harpers Ferry National Park in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He wrote, “The passage of the Patowmac [Potomac] through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature…On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder and pass off to the sea… This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”
The beautiful and majestic environment along the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and the rivers themselves helped a local business, designed for those with a sense of adventure and love of nature, expand far beyond its original offering of white water rafting.
River Riders Family Adventure Resort has the experienced personnel and attention to detail to give its customers an unforgettable experience from the challenge of white water rafting to the joy of seeing Mother Nature’s treasures.
“We have listened to our customers over the years and give them the kinds of adventures they wanted,” says Tyler Tummolo, River Riders general manager. “We are the premier outfitters year round.”
Tummolo says River Riders started out concentrating on white water raftering. The organization began in the early 1970s as Shenandoah River Rafters. More property in the area was purchased over the years with construction of the current facility at 408 Alstadts Hill Rd. beginning in 2003. River Riders is owned by Matt and Laura Knott.
White water rafting is still part of River Riders, but now the company offers tubing, aerial forest adventure parks, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, lodging options, fishing canopy and tour/zip lining.
“We were the first in the area to have zip lining,” Tummolo says. “It really is a thrilling experience. We had one couple do zip lining and other activities for their honeymoon They thought all of it was phenomenal. Something they would remember for the rest of their lives.”
A zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on a slope. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to, or attaching to, the freely moving pulley.
For those who might be a little nervous about this adventure, Tummolo says the network of eight zip lines available come in all different lengths and heights, from about 20 feet in the air to 100 feet. The longer and higher zip lines are used as a means of accessing remote areas. The canopy tour is a professionally guided zip line tour through the treetops.
River Riders’ Harpers Ferry Adventure Park consists of nine aerial forest challenge trails, varying in difficulty level. There are approximately 12 elements per course, totaling 108 challenges and zip lines. There’s a new Kids’ Zip Line, for four to six year olds, which has 12 continuous zip lines. Little ones are permitted on the Chicken Little’s Child course, which includes the kids zip line and Adventure Tree House.
There are numerous treats for nature lovers, too.
“We have recently seen bald eagles,” Tummolo says.
Water levels in both the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers can vary, depending on the weather and time of year. During the spring, levels tend to be higher, providing a more exciting experience for rafters and tubers. River Riders recommends the Shenandoah River for beginner and intermediate paddlers. Of course there is also plenty of white water. River Riders offers a seven-mile river excursion.
“We have the expertise, guides and equipment to meet all of our customers’ outdoor adventure needs,” Tummolo says. “We even have a special narrower boat that can get between the rocks when the water levels are low to get you where you want to go.”
The Shenandoah River was voted as one of the top five tubing rivers in America by USA Today in 2016. Tubing is the recreational activity where someone rides on top of an inner tube, either on water, snow, or through the air. River Riders refers to tubing as a relaxing float trip. Flat water tubing is sometimes called “lazy river tubing.”
Kayaking and canoeing are other ways to explore the rivers. In all the water activities, customers can go on their own or have a guide. Rafts, paddles, personal flotation devices, and a shuttle to and from the river are provided for all trips.
River Riders has about 250 employees during the peak season. Its guides have experience on world-class white water runs in North, Central, and South America. Staff leaders have the seasoned skills and know-how to provide customers with the most enjoyable trip possible. The guides pride themselves on offering a positive experience Tummolo says. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources certifies all guides at River Riders. Staff is trained in customer service skills, river ecology, wildlife, flora and fauna. In addition to learning how to skillfully maneuver river craft, new staff are trained in first aid, Professional Rescuer CPR, and Basic Swift water Rescue. Senior staff includes in-house First Aid and CPR instructors, Swift water and Whitewater Rescue Technicians and Instructors, EMTs, and First Responders.
The Jefferson County Emergency Services calls River Riders to assist with all river related rescues in the Harpers Ferry area.
Those who come to River Riders also have a wide variety of lodging options. Tummolo says the most recent purchase in 2015 was the River Riders Resort-Clarion Inn, a 100-room hotel.
“We needed more beds for heads,” Tummolo says. “We keep growing.”
In addition, River Riders has tent and RV sites on its waterfront campground on the Potomac River, campground cabins, and four vacation rental homes.
To get away from it all and truly experience “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia” try the River Riders experience.
River Riders Family Adventure Resort is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; fall and spring hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; winter hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, go to the website at www.riverriders.com.