Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blue Ridge Ski & Outing Club - Gravely Hike

On November 6th, 15 people (and one dog!) enjoyed a Blue Ridge Ski and Outing Club hike at the Gravely Nature Preserve, Henry County’s first and, at present, only interpretative park. The 75-acre Preserve is a part of the Smith River Trails system which includes multiuse trails, riverside parks, and boating access points at intervals along the entire river through Henry County and into North Carolina, where the Smith converges with the Dan River.
The group started the hike on the Jones Cliff Trail that follows a ridge 200 feet above the Smith River going by a century old tobacco barn and passing through a mature hardwood forest.
Then they split off from that trail to descend on the Rhododendron Trail to the Smith River and walk beside the chattering river rapids through a tunnel like canopy of rhododendrons. They ascended on the other end to rejoin the Jones Cliff Trail and visit the Burgess Family Cemetery dating back to the 1800’s. It was a lovely sunny day for our 2-mile adventure.
The club plans to return in the spring when the rhododendron is in bloom!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis the Season for Trout

The first week in December is an exciting time in our region.  Students across the Smith River Valley have anxiously awaited the arrival of a special package that heralds the beginning of a new season. They arrive as small wet bundles wrapped in cheesecloth containing hundreds of tiny pink eggs. The deliveries to schools across the area mark the beginning of another season of Trout in the Classroom.   Over the next six months, students in local area schools will take on the responsibility of caring for these brown trout as they hatch and grow into fingerlings for release into our local rivers. 
The Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program started in 2005 and this year marks the beginning of the sixth season for what has become one of Virginia’s top watershed education programs.  The brown trout eggs that were picked up last Friday are provided by The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) from the state hatchery at Wytheville, VA.  Butch Bates, hatchery manger welcomes TIC coordinators across the state and has been instrumental in the support of the program since 2006. 
This award-wining program was originally conceived by Trout Unlimited over 20 years ago but was first introduced to Virginia classrooms by Dr. David Jones, a Martinsville area Orthodontist and has become an institution here in Southwest Virginia as one of the largest single TIC programs in the country.  

 TIC staff and volunteers make the trip across 3 counties and back to pick up thousands of trout eggs and deliver them to schools participating in the program.  These eggs are just the beginning and students and teachers will be raising the trout throughout the school year as they hatch from the fragile eggs and grow into healthy young trout under their watchful care. The trout eggs are delivered  to classrooms usually around the first week in December.   

Dr. Jones, Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association and volunteer TIC helpers have been making the journey to the hatchery each year and according to Brian, “It’s great way to kick off the start of each season.  The students are always excited when we arrive with eggs and you can see that it really sparks an interest in learning about the trout.  It’s amazing when you think how many kids have been through the program here in our region and now it has grown to 140 tanks across the state from Richmond on through to the Blueridge.”  

 This year, Brian and TIC volunteer Lisa Hall, a local dental hygienist and member of Smith River Trout Unlimited, made the journey to Wytheville to pick up the eggs.  This is volunteer Hall’s first year helping with the program. “Wow, this program is incredible and the trip to the hatchery was a fantastic experience.  We saw the huge parent trout that provided the eggs for this year and delivering  to schools was very exciting…the kids are really excited to get their eggs, “ said Lisa. 

 TIC could not be possible without the help of the VDGIF and Butch Bates, hatchery manager at Wytheville according to Brian Williams.  “Butch has really made a difference in the program and has been extremely helpful with his knowledge of rearing trout fry. 
“I love it !, says Butch. “ With just a small investment of time we can provide these eggs that help thousands of students learn about their local watersheds and why clean water is important to the health of our rivers” We raise a lot of fish for our stocking program but TIC is one way we can really make an impact on so many kids with so little effort, its great!”  The eggs should be hatching just before Christmas break and will remain in the baskets for about 3 weeks.  Trout need cold, clean water to survive and one of the major lessons the student learn is how a healthy stream has lots of food for trout and clean water.

Egg deliveries to Henry, Franklin and Pittsylvania school began on Friday with each school receiving a bundle of 200-250 eggs.  “The program has grown to over 30 tanks in four counties and with so many schools in the program now, we don’t even make it to them all in one day and some eggs are held in tanks and delivered in the next week, “ according to Brian.  Wayne Kirpatrick, president of the Dan River basin Association and Rozina Turner of Woolwine Elementary,  will be picking up and delivering eggs for all Patrick County Schools on December 14th. Patrick County has the distinction of having a trout tank in every one of its schools this year.
Across the country, Trout in the Classroom programs are sponsored by local organizations and funded locally as well.  The Martinsville / Henry County TIC program continues to be supported by the resources from the Harvest Foundation, Dr. David Jones, the Dan River Basin Association staff and volunteers, and local civic organizations.   

The real dedication comes from the teachers and students as they are responsible for the care, feeding and eventual release of trout into the Smith and Dan Rivers. 
According to David Jones, “The teachers and students are the heroes of this program and the key to its success.  With their support, dedication and love for the program we are beginning to see the results.  
Students are learning about our local rivers and beginning to understand the importance of water quality and how it impacts to quality of life and even our economy. We have also see amazing results in attendance and learning and development in classrooms exposed to this program.”   
An avid fly fisherman and strong conservationist, Lisa Hall has seen the program in action and is anxious to help students and teachers this year.  “What a great way to start the holiday season…all I want for Christmas is hatching trout !”

For more information on the local program visit:
For information on Trout Unlimited and the national Trout in the Classroom Program visit:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Podcast - Nick Long talks with VDOF forester, Andrew Brown

Listen to this episode
Nick Long, General Manager of WHLF 95.3 in South Boston Virginia, talks with Andrew Brown, Forester, Virginia Department of Forestry, about sustainable forestry practices that help landowners protect their land, gain top dollar for their trees (if they wish to timber), and protect clean drinking water---all at the same time. For instance, by using a consulting forester, landowners are more likely to get more for their timber and keep their land from washing down stream; stop pollution from getting into rivers; and provide wildlife habitat. Sound forestry practices make good economic sense. This podcast make possible with support from DRBA members, WHLF 95.3, Virginia Environmental Endowment, and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. This project also received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency's 319 Nonpoint Source Implementation Grant Program at the Virginia Department of Conservation (DCR), via grant number 319-2008-14-SR.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall Paddle and Hike on the Dan

Fall is the perfect time to be on the riverGet out there and enjoy the scenery and the cool weather
For now, enjoy this short video from Andy and Barbara Parker
A paddle and a hike at Hanging Rock

Fall on the Dick and Willie Passage

The weather is turning cooler and it is the perfect time to get out on area trails !
 The newest offering in Henry County is the scenic Dick and Willie Passage.  Enjoy the beautiful fall foliage while walking or biking the 4.5 mile  paved trail along the historic Danville & Western Railroad. 

Mile 0 is the Virginia Avenue trailhead and the 4.5 mile mark is reached at the current end of the trails (for now) over Mulberry Creek. 
The trail is open from dawn to dusk and can be accessed from five different trailheads with parking and restroom facilities
  • 1094 Virginia Avenue
  • 699 Liberty Street
  • Depot Street
  • 220 Doyle Street
  • 815 Fisher Street 
 Visitors and residents may borrow a bicycle and helmet to use on the trail for free through the Bike MHC program. Bike MHC is held at the Doyle Street trailhead. Contact Activate MHC at 276-403-5086 for more information about this service.  
  • Tuesday 10 am to 2 pm
  • Thursday 3 pm to 6 pm
  • 1st, 4th and 5th Saturday 8 am to 12 noon
  • 2nd and 3rd Saturday 10:30 am to 1 noon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canoe Rental Program at Beaver Creek Reservoir

Martinsville Parks and Recreation will start renting Canoes at Beaver Creek Reservoir for $30 a day plus a $10 deposit, which is refundable after key, paddles, and life jackets are returned to Main Office at 746 B Indian Trail. The public must come to the Main Office to fill out a short waiver and be sized up for paddles and life jackets which will be at this particular location. (Participates are required to wear their life jackets at all times while paddling on the Lake). Then the person will receive a key specific to the canoe rented, e.g., numbers 1-8. Canoes are “only” allowed to be put in at the Reservoir Lake and returned back to the canoe rack which is stationary at Beaver Creek Reservoir and locked back into position. For more information on MPR’s new Canoe Rental Program, call our office at 276-403-5140.
Submitted by: Gary Cody

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dick & Willie Passage Dedication Ceremony

You are cordially invited
to the Dedication Ceremony
for the "Dick & Willie Trail".

The event is scheduled for Monday, October 11, 2010, at 1:30 p.m. at the
Liberty Street trail head (intersection of Liberty Street and Stultz Road)

Please join us as we unveil this 4.5 mile walking and biking trail and celebrate all parties that played a role in putting it together.

Please join us!

Contributed by:
Jeannie Frisco
Activate Program Director

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

“October Philpott Lake Shoreline Clean-Up Planned”

Philpott Lake is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled recreational lakes in the State of Virginia. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the non-profit group, Friends of Philpott are organizing a shoreline clean-up for Saturday, October 9, 2010 and would like to invite volunteers to assist with the clean-up.

Volunteers with all types of boats and watercraft are invited to assist with the clean-up. Groups that do not have access to boats are encouraged to walk some of the trails that skirt the shoreline and pick up litter along the trails.

Participants will be able to launch their craft for free on the day of the clean-up and will receive a coupon which is good for another free launch from any boat ramp surrounding the lake. In addition, they will receive a small gift and refreshments before the event starts.

Volunteers of all ages and abilities are encouraged to participate in this National Public Lands Day event. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers will provide the bags needed to collect the litter.

Volunteer are asked to dress in appropriate clothing, to bring gloves and life jackets. All volunteers are asked to meet at 8:30 A.M. at the picnic shelter located at the lookout near the visitor’s center at 1058 Philpott Dam Road in Bassett Virginia.

All participants will meet at the shelter to sign up for the event, receive their gifts and receive instructions. Areas have been identified for the clean up and participants will disburse to launch their boats and head out to the targeted areas. The clean up will conclude at 1 P.ME. and all the bags of trash and debris will be transported back to the boat ramps.

Philpott Lake is an asset to the area and the surrounding counties. Visitors come to enjoy the unspoiled mountain expanses, serene beauty and it is an outstanding recreational destination. “We encourage you to volunteer your time and enjoy this national environmental event.” The event will be held rain or shine. Please contact Mary Lawson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 276-629-4512, ext. 227 or Lois Christensen with Friends of Philpott at 276-638-3207 for further information.

Contributed by: Linda Drage

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Marrowbone Creek to Mitchel Bridge float on 9/4/10

On September 4 DRBA will celebrate Labor Day weekend with a float on the most popular section of the Smith River-Marrowbone Creek Access to Mitchell Bridge Access in Henry County, VA. Meeting at 10:00 a. m. at the Richard P. Gravely, Jr. Nature Preserve, 2525 Eggleston Falls Road in Ridgeway, Virginia (36.611067, -79.817712), the group will launch canoes and kayaks at the nearby access point.

The 3.5-mile "blueway" Smith River Trails section, rated Class 1, is suitable for novice paddlers. Trip coordinator is Wayne Kirkpatrick, DRBA President, aided by other DRBA members who frequent this section of the river.

For the first half mile of the trip, the river flows alongside the Gravely Nature Preserve's high bluffs where paddlers can glimpse the Rhododendron Trail. As the name implies, the path winds through a rhododendron thicket as it hugs the river's edge.

About a mile farther on, Leatherwood Creek enters from river left. Paddlers often enter the wide mouth of the creek and take a leisurely side trip up the shaded stream to observe woodland wildflowers and birds. Early American patriot Patrick Henry, for whom both Patrick and Henry counties are named, lived on a large plantation near the headwaters of Leatherwood Creek from 1779 - 1786.

Just below the mouth of Leatherwood Creek is a broad rounded boulder in the middle of the river. Known as "Lunch Rock," it makes "a perfect spot to stop for a break," according to "An Insider's Guide to the Smith River," available at www.danriver.org .

Henry County, in partnership with DRBA, has made the Smith River accessible to the public over the past three years by building public access points at eight new sites along the river, including the Marrowbone Creek Access, which opened in 2007, and Mitchell Bridge Access, built in 2009.

Participants are invited to linger after the outing to enjoy the Gravely Nature Preserve, part of the county's "greenway" Smith River Trail system, which was dedicated in April, 2008. Developed by DRBA and Henry County, with funding from The Harvest Foundation, the 75-acre preserve features two miles of interpretive trails. Historic features include early twentieth-century tobacco barns and the Burgess Family cemetery, reminders of former owners of the property.

Industrialist, civic leader, and archaeologist Richard P. Gravely, Jr. owned the property in the late twentieth century and left instructions for its preservation as a wildlife and nature conservancy. The preserve now hosts frequent educational and recreational events for all ages, including day camps, fitness walks, historic presentations, workshops, after-school programs, and geo-caching.

Participants in the outing are asked to bring boat and paddles, life jackets, lunch and water, to dress in layers of artificial (quick-drying) fabric and to sign a waiver.

Boats may be rented from Three Rivers Outfitters, 336-627-6215
Smith River Adventure Outfitters, 276-252-0701

Directions: To reach the Gravely Nature Preserve from US 220 south of Martinsville, turn east at a traffic light onto Old Sand Road. Cross the US 58 overpass and immediately turn left onto Eggleston Falls Road. Travel about two miles to the preserve, which is on the left, across from the foot of Old Mill Road.

More information:  Wayne Kirkpatrick, 276-694-4449 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              276-694-4449      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or wynbtyk@embarqmail.com

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Smith River Clean-up August 2010

The Smith River Chapter of Trout Unlimited (SRTU) teamed up with the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) on Saturday August 21 to make a difference on the Smith by cleaning up of a section of river from the Trent Hill bridge through the Horseshoe section and down to the Bassett Historic Center.

It was an incredible turn-out with over 40 people attending including 16 volunteers from Skyline Tree Service, several Boy Scouts from a local troop, Eric Capps of Gateway Streetscapes, and many DRBA and SRTU members.
Everyone met at the Bassett Canoes Access ramp at 8:30am to split up into teams before we hit the river.  Many folks brought waders and at least 4 canoes and 1 jon boat were put on the river to haul trash.  Some elected to stay dry and they became the road crews to pick up all that trash on the surrounding roads before it manged to make it down the storm drains and into the river.
It was just fantastic to see so many river users and community members coming together to help make preserve and protect our water quality.
I was somewhat surprised to see Skyline Tree Service crew show up but I shouldn't have been as they are always a big supporter of all the river clean-ups and they were out in force today.  
Together with a group of boy scouts, Ellen and Joe Jesse and Eric Capps, they had Lenoir street cleaned in no time flat.  Like a hungry pack of wolves they didn't stop there and just crossed the bridge and headed back up Fairystone Pkwy through town to the Trent Hill Dr at Pappas Pizza.  They were ready for more so we sent them over to Wells Hollow Rd and they really did a great job near Lauren Mountain Preserve.
DRBA president, Wayne Kirkpatrick and his wife Betty headed upstream from the access ramp and had a canoe full in less than an hour
We had 2 crews working on the roads and 3 crews in the river. 

 Its hard to believe that much trash came out of the river in only 1.5 miles
President of SRTU, Shane Pinkston and volunteer Joan Ragland stayed behind to man the base camp and start preparing for the cookout.  We were so busy no one had time to go to the store to get food but Patty Williams saved the day by picking up hotdogs, hamburgers, drinks and chips.  Shane was nominated cook for the day and quickly set about preparing food as the teams came in with their respective hauls of trash.
 We took my flatbed trailer around picking up the bagged trash and the debris from the canoes.  
 Once we had it all back at the access ramp in one big pile, we set about gathering canoes and crews.  Everyone was just about beat but still had enough energy to slam down some tasty burgers and dogs.
 We were ecstatic with the turn out and thrilled to be able to clean up over a mile and a half  of river from the Bassett canoe access all the way down to the Bassett Historic Center. 

 Its not only important to get this trash out of the river to improve the health of the stream and wildlife habitat but also for cleaner water for the community. The ascetics of the river are greatly improved byt removal of all the trash and that translates into dollars for our economy in the form of economic development.  We want people to come to our community, get out there and fish, paddle and enjoy the river and we want to them to leave having seen the best of the Smith, clean and green !   
This is the best advertising of all for our area and keeping it clean is the name of the game.
Specia thanks to Darrin Doss and Al Kitterage and a the SRTU members.
Next weekend is the third annual Smith River fest and there will be paddlers from all over, even as far away as Richmond and they will be utilizing the river mainly in this area.  Having folks come to our area, maybe for the first time and experience the beauty of our area and a clean river, means they have a great experience and go back and spread the word about the incredible natural resource we have to offer here in Henry County.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Basset Community Market Opens

The Historic Train Depot in downtown Bassett is seeing new life as adaptive reuse has come in the form of a Community Market.   
 Currently open on Thursdays, the market is open courtesy fo Bassett Industries and the local Ruitan clubs who host local farmers providing fresh produce.  Lunch and music can also be enjoyed during your trip to the market.  Come on out and get your fresh veggies and support our local farmers!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The new canoe access ramp at Soulutia (CPFilms) is nearly completeThis is going to be one of our nicer access points and it’s like a mini park complete with trail and easy access. 

The ramp is located off The Great Road in Stanleytown, strategically situated between the upstream access at Bassett and the next downstream access at Fieldale.
 An extremely easy entry into the water, the ramp creates a nice access at low water and a good eddy for times of full generation.  A picnic table at the access is a great place to have lunch or walk the trail downstream to another quiet location complete with picnic table and view of the river.