Monday, November 10, 2008

November on the Dan

If you haven't been on any DRBA "First Saturday Outings"
...then you just don't know what you are missing!!
In the warmer months, we paddle the rivers while the winter is reserved for hikes, but on all outings you can count on at least 3 constants:
Being outside somewhere in our beautiful river basin, (perhaps a site that is new to you),
Learning more about history, wildlife or hiking and paddling,
Meeting new friends and having a fabulous time.

Paddle outings are some of our most well attended, especially when Lindley and T Butler are the trip coordinators. You can count on experiencing the beauty of the river and sharing in the Butler's passion through their varied stories and thoughtful observations. If you are paying attention, you'll even get an awesome history lesson from one of the foremost authorities on the Dan River Batteaux Navigation System. T and Lindley are just awesome guides and when people hear they are leading a know there is going to be a crowd.

DRBA's November 1 outing was no exception to the norm, and the 5-mile float through an especially historic and scenic section of the Dan River from Madison, NC, to Jacob's Creek saw 45 boats on the river on this "bluebird sky" afternoon.

The meeting point was at the NC 704 Access off Water Street in Madison. After getting all the boats staged down near the water, we gathered round for introductions and to hear a brief overview of what we could expect to see and learn on today's trip.

Next, it was off to shuttle vehicles to a private take-out at Jacob's Creek, then, back to the launching point.

It takes a while to get 45 boats in the water and heading downstream
but then we were finally underway.

The first site was the 704 bridge and a small chute through the bedrock rapids. As we passed underneath, the traffic overhead signaled our last encounter with civilization for the next two hours.

This float took us through at least 7 structures built in the 19th century to make the river more usable by flat-bottomed batteaux, the long, narrow workhorses of river commerce in the region.

Dr. Butler, an authority on the Dan River navigation system, interpreted the landings, sluices, and wing dams that were built in the 1820s and expanded as late as the 1880s. Designed to direct water into channels through rapids and ledges, the structures today make the river Class 1, suitable for novice paddlers, and floatable even in times of extreme drought. Perhaps the most interesting site is Slink Shoal Sluice and wingdams, the longest sluice and the only surviving log-crib wingdams on the river.

Each sluice and wingdam was especially exciting having learned the history of the navigation system from Lindley. Some sluices on the Dan, Mayo, and Smith Rivers were actully modified native American structures known as fish weirs.

We stopped for lunch on Lone Island, where the river was forded during the American Revolution.

Back in the boats we paddled the rest of the way in quiet leisure enjoying the beautiful blue skies as great blue herons kept pace out in front and the water lapping against our boats and quiet chatter between groups were the only sounds.

At the private take out spot, we loaded up and went our separate ways, refreshed from another fine adventure in the Historic and beautiful Dan River Basin!

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