The Hardware River begins about 15 miles south of Charlottesville, just above the Route 20 bridge. The Hardware flows south for 26 ½ miles to join the James River just above Bremo Bluff.
Typically, canoeists divide the trip into two sections, the first being from Route 20 at Carter Bridge to the Temperance Wayside at Route 6, and the second being from the Temperance Wayside at Route 6 to the James River at the take-out bridge.
The Hardware River is rich in wildlife, including deer, turkey, fish and a variety of other birds and mammals. The banks are mostly tree-lined and shady, with the high clay banks so typical of Piedmont streams. Though often crossed by roads, the traveler is certain to enjoy the peace and quiet afforded by the river.
Canoeists generally begin a trip of the Hardware at Carter Bridge along Route 20. This is an easy put in, with parking, a short carry and a convenient sand bar. A 14-foot dam blocks the river about a mile downstream, with portage on either side. The countryside is pleasant, with mostly tree-lined banks and large estates. Canoeists and other paddlers can easily see old dams, including the dam for historic Jefferson Mill, restored along the right bank about 7 miles below the Route 795 bridge, and originally built in 1820. Visitors must portage past this dam. In addition, caution must be exercised if the water is high, as several road bridges may present a hazard to boats.
The lower part of the Hardware River meanders through quiet countryside with pleasant views of the surrounding area. The Temperance Wayside along Route 6 at the bridge is a favorite put in spot for canoeists. There are three Class 2 rapids along the lower Hardware, and caution must be used at bridges, especially the take out bridge if the water is high.