The Embrey Dam Of Fredericksburg: Blowing Up A Childhood Memory

“When he was younger, he would hit those same rapids with his friends. They would start at the dam miles up the river and jump off into the pool of water forty feet below. Then, the drift would slowly pull them to the edge of what he affectionately referred to as ‘Chutes and Ladders.'” A River in the Ocean

Recently, I was on a trip through Virginia. So I had to route it through Fredericksburg. That city and the Rappahannock River that runs through it are a major part of my life. For one, it is where I finally graduated high school.

The Alma Mater, James Monroe


But, because it’s always good to see the river again. I literally got tears in my eyes as I crossed the Chatham Bridge and saw the water for the first time in years. There were kayaks in the water, so I knew it would be good “Chutes and Ladders” time just like it mentions in the excerpt above.

The Rappahannock River

the best of chutes and ladders
This portion of the river is just below the Embrey Dam. My friends and I had a really good system. One friend would drive while the others got to body surf the white water. That way, one person was posted five miles down the river where the ride would end. Then, we would rotate who would drive.

But, it started at the dam. We would climb all through the dam and then walk across the top where the water flowing over was only about an inch deep. We would stare at the pool below, about a forty foot drop. Then, we’d jump. That was the beginning of the fun.

Wear shoes. Get ready for the ride, jetting in and out of rocks. Some waters were faster than others. Sometimes, we’d take a tube to float. Even in a tube, you can get beat up going in and out of the rocks. That was the fun of it.

The thing is that on my recent trip to Fredericksburg, I was trying to map out where the dam was. I couldn’t remember from years ago how we used to get back in there. So, I researched it. That’s when I learned some pretty devastating news.

It appears that they had decided to blow up the dam back in 2004. They had decided that it would be better for the fish since the dam hadn’t produced any power since the 1960s. I can certainly understand a decision to remove a man-made structure from a natural setting. But, you have to imagine how hard news like that might have hit me.

I had a thought that I might visit the dam anyway. But, I changed my mind. I wasn’t ready to see the destruction that was left after the blasts opened up the water gateway. I will go back through there one day. I just wasn’t ready for it on this trip.

The Destruction Of A Childhood Memory

A whole generation of kids and the generations to come will never know what that was like to walk through the dam and jump off of it. Of course, I know that’s not why it was made. But, those are the memories I made there.

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Michael Allen is the author of A River in the Ocean, the heartwarming story of a single father who is separated from his daughter when an awful accident nearly takes his life. He comes out of his coma with amnesia, but something keeps pulling him to find what's missing in his life. He didn't know he was looking and she didn't know she needed found. Available now at Amazon!

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A River in the Ocean

Michael Allen A River in the Ocean
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A River in The Ocean is the story of a father and a daughter who get separated by a tragic accident. The father wakes up from a coma unaware he has a daughter while she has been raised for years by an odd couple who have great intentions, but no idea what they are doing. He begins to feel something is missing in his life while she begins to feel she is out of place. He didn’t know he was looking and she didn’t know she needed found.

Available in print and on Kindle: A River in the Ocean