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Get Outside with Ashby Gap Adventures

Get Outside with Ashby Gap Adventures

Written by Heidi Baumstark

“Take Me to the River.” Remember that classic ‘70s song? It originated with Al Green, and was remade a few years later by the Talking Heads. Its popularity is no surprise: The serenity of the water, the fresh air, and the wildlife beckon people to the river. 

Ashby Gap Adventures is a full-service outfitter that delivers scenic half-day and full-day river trips on the Potomac and Shenandoah for groups of up to 18. The adventures include opportunities to fish, hunt, and experience special foraging trips.

Owned by Jeff and Erika Kelble of Clarke County, AGA has a team of guides that paddle groups down the river while educating participants on birding, ecology, or history, if desired. Trips can be customized for couples, families, or even coworkers for corporate retreats. AGA’s team does all the heavy lifting while customers float down the river, relax, and explore nature. After all, their tagline says it best: “We do the work … you do the fun.” 

More Than River Floats

Ashby Gap also gets lots of fishing guide requests for regular fishing or fly-fishing excursions. They provide fishing rods, fly rods, reels, line, lures, flies, and a veteran guide to take guests to the best spots. This is a perfect outing for those ages 10 and up with a maximum of 12 guests.

They also accommodate requests for waterfowl hunting, including ducks and geese. Again, Ashby Gap provides all the supplies: the boat, life preservers, a guide, and a cooler with snacks and drinks. 

Then there are foraging adventures on a customer’s private property, too. “People want to know what’s edible on their own land. Our guide will take them around and show them what’s safe to eat and ways to prepare it,” Jeff Kelble notes.

How It Started

AGA was established in 2019 on the cusp of the pandemic. Kelble had been in the river business since the late 1990s with a fishing guide service. In 2005, “I started a conservation nonprofit called Shenandoah Riverkeeper — housed under Potomac Riverkeeper — and worked there through 2018. The next year, my wife and I started Ashby Gap Adventures,” he remembers. 

When Kelble left Potomac Riverkeeper, his goal was to get back into the river guide business. He noticed that over the years, people have become more careful and less inclined to get on a river and just go by themselves. “So, taking customers on river adventures has become more popular,” he says. “Our guides row the boats so guests can sit back and enjoy the ride. Lots of people don’t know where the river accesses are. People want the river experience, but don’t want to buy all the equipment.” AGA’s boats are commercial-grade whitewater rafts. Boat seats swivel so guests can catch different views. 

A group floats down the river. Photo by Jeff Kelble.

Middleburg Connection

“I knew the concierge at Salamander in Middleburg,” Kelble shares. In November 2019, Kelble reached out asking if Salamander would be interested in extending his private river trips to guests. “They were glad to offer our services, but definitely wanted to check me out,” he remembers. Kelble brought his raft and trailer to Salamander, and after the general manager inspected the equipment, he got the green light for a partnership. “That relationship with Salamander immediately filled our business to capacity,” Kelble says. “We’re the closest private river outfitter to Middleburg.”

Views on the River

Remnants of mills, old habitations, and fords in the river are just some of the views customers will see on their trip. Everyone notices the birds — herons, eagles, hawks, ospreys, songbirds, orioles, ducks, geese. It makes a birder out of people who previously had no interest. Kelble adds, “We see lots of ‘National Geographic’-type scenes of birds fighting over food; we see wild turkey, colorful turtles, bears crossing the river, and deer almost every day.” There are 400 miles of floatable water in the Shenandoah and Potomac, and AGA specifically handpicks their float destinations along the routes least populated by people.

To the team at Ashby Gap, a great trip means something: time with loved ones, dodging crowds, and discovering serene spots to experience the wild. At the end when the boat comes to shore, “we hug the guests, and they go home. It’s really nice,” Kelble concludes. 

What People Are Saying

Bill Stiebel, of Winchester, signed up for a river float in May with friends visiting from California. Their last time on a river was in Africa, but they were so excited to experience the Shenandoah. “It was a fantastic morning,” he shares. “The scenery and wildlife were truly beautiful. Jeff has an amazing knowledge of the river, its ecology, geology, and history.” 

Gerard Maguire, of Fairfax, agrees. “I’ve done many trips with Ashby Gap Adventures, and my favorite was a trip with my wife, our two kids, and our nephew. We kayaked down the Shenandoah with a guide who shared stories about the region, the river, and pointed out wildlife. It’s the perfect way to experience the beauty of the Shenandoah. Jeff’s operation is excellent. I’ve done similar trips with other outfitters, and he’s in another class.”

Stiebel concludes, “I have been on the Shenandoah so many times, but I learned more in this one outing than in all my previous trips combined.” 

In addition to owning Ashby Gap Adventures, Kelble recently launched Front Royal River Adventures, a canoe, kayak, and inner tube business. Their grand opening was on June 28. For more details, visit

More information about Ashby Gap Adventures can be found at For trips offered to Salamander guests, visit ML

Featured photo: A great blue heron glides across the river during an Ashby Gap excursion. Photo courtesy of Bill Stiebel.

Published in the July 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

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