Rockcliffe Farm Retreat and Lodge

by Chris McCotter

The James River holds a special place in the heart of many people. The allure of its clear flowing beautiful water is hypnotizing. The banks along the river provide amazing scenery in some areas. You do not have to be an avid angler to understand the attraction of the James River.

Until recently you really did not have many lodging and launching options when you get into the middle and upper sections of the river. Many people choose to use the James River State Park or the Wildlife Management areas. These are fine options, but only provided solutions to camper and the sections of the river that these areas cover are often the high traffic areas.

Many serious river anglers seek a secluded stretch of river, but that comes with limited access. The great thing is that the owners of Rockcliffe Farm Retreat and Lodge near Bent Creek have you covered.

Several years ago the owners decided to buy land along the James River (roughly eight miles above Bent Creek or 12 miles to Appomattox). They being conservationists have the land protected so it can never be developed. They have an incredible lodge that has every amenity you can think of.

This lodge is very secluded and provides one heck of a James River / central Virginia experience. Many people want to camp and they have that covered as well. Owners, Joan and Hugh have truly spent a great deal of time thinking about what tenants would need in order to have a stress free stay.

Now I love to camp, but the older I get the more I yearn for the creature comforts of a bed, a kitchen, AC and TV. The lodge has numerous hiking trails, two fire pits with seating, basketball court, game room, patio, gas grill, washer dryer. Each bedroom is tastefully decorated and each has its own bathroom as well. The place has tons of space, it is well decorated, and the kitchen has every utensil you would ever need. They have DirecTV, ping pong, foosball, darts, board games and they have wi-fi with a laptop you can use if needed.

Right on the river you have a great camping area complete with picnic tables, fire ring, and a portable bathroom. Their camping area has been set up to blend perfectly into the James River surroundings. It is not unusual to see deer, turkeys, turtles, all types of birds as you make your way down to the river.

This place is great for fishing trips, hunting trips, weddings, receptions…you name it and Joan and Hugh will have you set up. You can even bring horses. They have direct access to the James River where you can launch one of their rented canoes or a boat you bring.

Joan and Hugh are so accommodating that they let guests borrow their old Jeep to drive down to the river if you do not have a four-wheel drive vehicle. The drive to the river is an adventure unto itself. You take a 2.5 mile trail (4×4 only) down to the river campsite. Every year they host a group of people to watch the Batteau Festival and the Batteau boats come down the James like they did in yester year. These were the large hand crafted wooden boats used to carry goods down the river.

Knowing all that Rockcliffe Farm Retreat and Lodge has to offer, I, along with three buddies, brought our children to the Retreat for Father’s Day weekend. We had two girls, both six years old, and two boys (one four-year-old and one seven-year-old).

We chose to camp the first night and stay in the lodge the second night. The parents had never taken their kids on a river trip so this was a bit of an experiment. The camping spot was as usual in great shape, freshly mowed with two picnic table and two other regular tables as well as a fire pit.

The kids instantly fell in love with the river. They swam right at the river’s edge, had water gun fights, and even did some wade fishing. This was a great start to the adventurous weekend.

We took the kids via raft up to the nearest set of riffles and let them loose with life jackets on. They proceeded to play in the riffles and help their dads with a little fishing. Every time a smallmouth was caught they all would gather around and took turns on who got to hold it and release it. This night the kiddos got to reel in a few fish that their Dads hooked. We went back to camp at sun down and proceed to grill out, hang around the camp fire and the kids found a toad that kept them busy for hours.

We awoke Saturday morning, took a truck to the take out at Bent Creek and then came back and did some wade fishing right in front of camp. One young lady (Emma) caught her very first smallie all by herself on a modified Beetle Spin on a Zebco 33 (Pink Lady). I will never forget the excitement and the look of pride on her face as she battle the fish. Her Dad could not have been any more proud of her. This instantly got all the other children jealous and we soon had all the kids casting rods in search of their first fish.

We soon pushed off and headed down the river for a day of adventure. We stopped in several spots including Higgobotham Falls to let the kids out of the raft and to do some much-needed swimming and wade fishing.

It was a very warm day (94) and we spent a bunch of time frolicking in the moving water. We also all did some light fishing when possible. Emma managed to land another fish all on her own. She was actually fishing a Bitsy Bug jig with a craw trailer. She lost a nice one at Higgobotham but it was clear she was hooked and had some natural skills. Watch out KVD, Emma is coming for your crown.

The other kids never landed their own fish, but loved reeling in their Dad’s fish and being on the river in general. As the afternoon progressed it was getting hotter and hotter. We pulled off the river and headed up to the lodge to enjoy showers and the cool air conditioning. The kids played basketball on the court, and then proceed to play ping-pong and foosball for hours. They also really enjoyed playing with a lizard that two Dads caught and put into a bucket for the kids to look at.

After a great dinner they all showed signs of fatigue and were in bed fast asleep at 9:30. The four adults relaxed, caught up on US Open highlights (DirecTV) and enjoyed grilling outside on the back patio. The only thing we failed to do was have a fire in one of the two fire pits at the lodge…but in the end I do not think we could have packed anymore into the day. The next morning we all took our time getting up and then made a nice breakfast for all before departing for our homes.

If you are looking for a relaxing care free weekend in central Virginia the Rockcliffe Farm Retreat and Lodge is a must. If you are an avid angler and want a new section of river to fish or the comfort of the lodge, Rockcliffe Farm Retreat and Lodge is for you. If you want a place to camp that is secluded unlike the James River State Park then this is the place for you. I cannot say enough about the hospitality exhibited by the owners Joan and Hugh. They are down to earth, accommodating and always accessible if you need them.

You do not need to be a woodsman or woman to enjoy what this carefully thought out Retreat has to offer. If caters to all ages and all types of people. Be sure to check out their website at . The site gives you a great look at the lodge and all it has to offer. The pictures do not do it justice. The huge open floor plan will surprise you when you first arrive. Try something new and give Joan and Hugh a call at the Rockcliffe Farm Retreat.

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