River Access Program
Current RAP Booklet: Version 3/16/2023
Click on the title above to see our interactive Safety Story Map!
What is FOMR’s River Access Program?
FOMR has organized a network of private landowners (hosts) who are willing to allow authorized FOMR users (guests) onto their property for River access. The River Access Program creates opportunity for put-in and take-out sites on private property along Middle River. Currently, Middle River has no designated public access sites—most of its riverbanks are privately owned. This makes it very difficult to use Middle River without trespassing unless you happen to have a friend who owns property on the river.
In our program, if you agree to and follow the rules, you get a listing of participating private property landowners along Middle River who are willing to have members of our program contact them to request permission to use their property for boat put-in and take-out purposes. Our program currently has about 9 different access sites, which allows you to put together a variety of combinations of trips of different lengths on varying parts of the River. We are always seeking more landowners to join our program.
How exactly does the program work?
You will receive a booklet and Authorized User Permits for your vehicles. First, you create a trip of the length you want based on the choices of potential access sites in the booklet. Then you contact the landowners you have chosen to ask permission to use their access on your chosen date and time. These landowners are open to having you call them, but for any given request, the landowner may say “no.” That is why you have to call and get permission for each and every trip. Plus, you will have to secure permissions from both your put-in and take-out landowners. On the day of the trip, place your Authorized User Permits in your vehicles so the landowner can see whose car is on their land while you are on the river.
In the booklet, we list exactly how the landowner wants you to work with them. Follow each of their directions exactly. Under no circumstance should any member ever go onto an access site without having contacted the landowner as per the instructions…not even just to see what the access is like, or to see where the property is. Always get permission first.
Why would landowners want to participate?
Out of the goodness of their hearts!!!!! These landowners are being very generous, so it is imperative that all FOMR guest users follow each landlowner’s preferences precisely while communicating clearly and respectfully with landlowners at all times. If a landowner were to have a bad experience with an FOMR guest, that landowner could drop out of our program, denying future access for all paddlers.
We hope to continue to expand the number of landowner hosts in the future. When new or revised access sites become available, permit holders will be notified.
Do access sites ever change? How do I know which sites are current?
Yes, they can change over time. We are always seeking new landowners willing to join our program. If you get a lead of a riverfront property owner who may be interested, let us know. And landowners do sometimes drop out of our program. It is important that all RAP members be sure they are using the current listing of available sites so that they do not call a former participating landowner who has dropped out of the program. The booklet you should use will have a "version date" at the bottom of every page. And, in our monthly newsletters at the bottom we list the current RAP booklet version near the calendar of events. We also list the current version at the top of this page in the title heading. When new versions of the booklet are created, we will email them to you. But email can go to spam folders and be missed, so it is a good idea to always doublecheck you are using the correct version.
Is there a fee for this program?
Since we started this program in 2018, the River Access Program has been free.
How do I join?
Submit your info via the Join button at the top right or call Kate at 540-609-8267 to get started. We will have a brief phone chat with you to discuss the rules and answer questions before materials are mailed out to you.
Can I share my Authorized User Permits with friends?
Just people in your household. Your cards are linked to you. For example, if a landowner sees your vehicle still on their property after sunset, they could rightly be concerned that something happened to you on your trip and that you might be in trouble. They will assume it is you on the river—not your neighbor, coworker or friend from church. So, for safety reasons, you should never loan your cards out to anyone outside of your household. Instead, advise them to sign up for the program and get their own cards!
What is Middle River like? Are there any dangerous spots?
Well, of course, any river can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, if the water levels are high, or if there are blockages in the river that you cannot avoid. But, at normal water levels—especially below Verona-- the Middle River is a quiet river—great for beginner boaters and kids. The quiet, still areas of the lower half of the river might be over one’s head in depth. But for the riffles and “rapids,” most are shallower than the calf-deep water where it is safer to stand and walk if your boat overturns. At normal water levels, no rapid on Middle River is greater than a Category 1-2, the lowest rating.
However, there is one serious permanent hazard on Middle River. New Hope Dam is at Mile Marker 16.2. It would be very dangerous—potentially even life-threatening— to try to paddle over this hazard, so please don’t try. Even seemingly small dams are extremely dangerous due to the type water currents they produce.
Our program has secured permission to portage around the dam on the river left side. How to do this portage is written about extensively in our RAP booklet you will receive when you join the program.
Who owns the River?
This is a complex legal question and the answer may vary in interpretation based on federal vs. state laws. Landowners own every bit of soil right up to the waters’ edge. Their property line may even extend to the center of the River. While on Middle River, you should understand that whatever your activity on the River - be it recreation or conservation - if you step ashore, in most cases, you will be trespassing on someone’s property. Tread lightly, be considerate, use common sense, and familiarize yourself with the rules of our program.
Considering joining the program? Below are the rules all Authorized User Permit holders must agree to follow:
1. Please do not give your Authorized User Permit or this booklet to other people outside your household. Instead, please refer them to FOMR to get their own permit(s). This is a safety issue. Your permits have contact info on them. Landowners need to be able to know who is using their land at any time and be able to contact someone if a problem arises—like if someone does not come back for their vehicle. If a permit were loaned out, confusion about who may be in trouble on the River could occur.
2. When requesting permission from a landowner to access a site, please follow that landowner's instructions carefully. Different landowners have different preferences for how they want to be contacted by guests. For example, some want you to leave a voice message while others want you to wait until they call you back. Under no circumstances should you visit any site for any reason without calling landowner in advance.
3. Display your yellow “FOMR Authorized User” permit in your vehicle’s windshield so that landowner or caretaker can see it easily. For example, if you park down by the River and their house is way up the hill, try to park and display the card so the landowner can see it from their house and not have to walk all the way down to see whose vehicle is on their land.
4. Please leave everything at the access site as you find it. For example, pick up all trash, leave gates as they were when you arrived and minimize damage to grass and vegetation as much as possible. Practice “Leave No Trace” principles.
5. Please pick vehicles up no later than 1/2 hour after sunset. There is no overnight parking on access sites without advance permission from the landowner.
6. For groups of more than 4 persons, please contact the landowner in advance with the number in the group and how many vehicles will be parked on the landowner’s property.
7. All land along Middle River during your trip is private property, so please treat it with respect. If you get out of your boat and step onto someone’s property for any reason, please treat it as your own. “Leave No Trace” that you were ever there.
8. Observe, know and heed state fishing regulations.
9. Have appropriate safety equipment in your boat in case you are stopped by law enforcement.
10. Sound really carries over water, so use your quiet “River Voice” when on or near the water.
11. If an access site is wet, such as after a heavy rain, please do not drive on any grass there. Park on the gravel or wait to use the site when the grass has had a chance to dry out.