Wednesday, November 11, 2009

December First Saturday Outing

Dan River Basin Association to Hike Fieldale Trail December 5
Alternatively, Traditional Sprig Outing in NC

The First Saturday Outing of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) on December 5, 2009 will be a hike on the Fieldale Trail beside the Smith River in Fieldale, Virginia. Participants will meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Fieldale Park near the site of the old Fieldale Iron Bridge for an out-and-back stroll led by Friends of the Fieldale Trail volunteers.

Alternatively, boaters may join other paddle clubs in the 27th Annual Sprig Outing in the swamp of the Upper Little River near Lillington, NC to collect holiday greenery. Details are at

Fieldale Trail hikers may choose to walk a distance of one to six miles, since two sections comprise the trail—a 1.5-mile Upper Fieldale Trail from Fieldale Park to the original trailhead, and a 1.5-mile Lower Fieldale Trail downstream from the trailhead. Both segments are flat and easy to walk. Walking the entire distance out and back gives a total of 6 miles.

The Fieldale Trail offers "a golden opportunity to see Mother Nature up close and personal right in our own backyard," according to Adopt-a-Trail volunteers Charles and Pat Dameron. Tommy Wyatt, a leader of DRBA’s Friends of the Fieldale Trail, adds, “The trail is a great place to meet people from the community. Families, children, elderly people, bicyclists, and even people training for marathons use the trail as part of their daily activities.”

Hugging the bank of the Smith River, the graveled trail of the Upper Fieldale Trail winds through woods and open fields frequented by a variety of birds to the trailhead at the Fieldale Canoe Access, where a restroom is available. From there, the natural-surface Lower Fieldale Trail trail enters the riverside forest and skirts rhododendron bluffs alongside the river to its downstream terminus. Towering sycamore trees shelter the trail, and gravel bars and rock formations in the streambed give voice to the river.

Envisioned at a 2005 planning session of DRBA’s affiliate, the Martinsville-Henry County Rivers and Trails Group, the Fieldale Trial is part of the proposed 45-mile Smith River Trail System from Philpott Dam to the river’s confluence with the Dan River at Eden, NC, as well as the Beaches to Bluegrass Trail across Southern Virginia.

One mile of the Upper Fieldale Trail opened in July, 2007 and the Lower Fieldale Trail was dedicated in March, 2009. Constructed with support from Dominion Foundation, the Virginia Department of Forestry, Henry County, and numerous corporate and private in-kind donations, the trail is operated by Henry County Parks & Recreation. Plans for an extension of the Upper Fieldale Trail are underway.

When Jennifer Doss, DRBA’s Rivers & Trails Project Manager, learned about the imminent replacement of the landmark 1931 Fieldale Iron Bridge, she worked with the Fieldale Heritage Festival to save 54 feet of the old structure that will be used as trail art on either side of the Fieldale Trail, “so that trail users will once again walk ‘across’ the Iron Bridge.” Doss adds, “Thanks to the support of local businesses and community partners, many hands working together have helped to preserve the Historic Iron Bridge.” Dozens of donors and generous corporate gifts of time and materials have brought the project near its fundraising goal. More information is at

Participants in the hike should meet at 10:00 a.m. at Fieldale Park, 188 Field Avenue, at the intersection of Field Avenue and South River Road (GPS coordinates: North 36.42, 076 West 56.021, 079). Bring lunch and water, wear comfortable shoes or hiking boots, dress in layers of water-shedding artificial fabric or wool, and be prepared for rain or wind. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver form.

Directions: From US 220 take the VA 609 exit towards Fieldale. Turn right at Dillon’s Fork Road, continue on Virginia Avenue, continue on Patrick Avenue, turn right at Field Avenue. Turn right at South River Road, and immediately turn right into the parking lot of the Fieldale Park.

Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge.
For more information, contact Trip Coordinator Paula Wyatt at 276-647-3274 or

For membership information, visit
Article contributed by T Butler

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