Thursday, March 24, 2011

Back to the River !

April 2, 2011
Back to the River!

Back to the River! April 2 Outing on Smith River from Bassett to Great Road Access

DRBA’s First Saturday Outing on April 2, 2011 will celebrate springtime with a return to the water—a 5.2-mile float on the Smith River in Henry County from the Bassett Access to the newly opened Great Road Access. Charlie Williams, expert paddler and Outings Committee Chair, will coordinate the trip.

Participants are asked to meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Bassett Canoe Access, 271 Trent Hill Drive, Bassett, VA (GPS 36.76992,-80.00147) to unload boats and gear and set the shuttle.
For boat rentals and shuttle, contact Smith River Adventure Outfitters, 276-252-0701, or Three Rivers Outfitters, 336-627-6215, 276-340-3983,
Constructed through a partnership of DRBA and Henry County, both the Bassett and Great Road accesses are part of the Smith River Trail System, a growing network of blueways and greenways designed to connect riverside communities through Henry County, VA, downstream to Eden, NC. 

The Bassett Canoe Access, opened in 2006, is located at the now dormant J. D. Bassett Chair Factory, which “stands as a silent testament to an historic furniture industry that once supplied America,” according to “An Insider’s Guide to the Smith River.” 

As the Smith runs through the town of about 1,300 residents, remnants of the past remind paddlers of the river’s history. In the 19th century, Smith’s River Navigation Company built rock wing dams and sluices to enable long, narrow batteaux to haul iron and grain to market in Danville.
Although commercial navigation on the river was short-lived, the company’s wing dams survived and were modified by twentieth-century riverside industries for water intakes. Shortly below the put-in, paddlers will pass the “Leaning Tower of Bassett,” one of these later structures.
On river left, the Norfolk Southern Railway line parallels the river the full length of the float, serving past and present factories in this important industrial center.
About a mile into the trip, on river right is Bassett Historical Center, which houses a wealth of local historical and genealogical materials used by patrons from around the world. Just downstream is the third of six bridges that span this section of the river.
A short distance below the fifth bridge is Blackberry Creek, entering from river right. The Great Wagon Road crossed the Smith River nearby, providing a route for settlers migrating through the region in days gone by.
From Blackberry Creek for a half mile is “The Hayfields,” where the river is shallow and “trout fishing is best accomplished by wading,” according to DRBA staff member and avid trout fisherman Brian Williams, who wrote the Smith River guide. Trout thrive throughout this portion of the river.
The take-out is at the Great Road Access, the Smith River’s newest river access point, which opened in September, 2010. Solutia Performance Films granted easements for the access and for an adjacent 500-foot-long trail. Plant manager Joe Stultz says, “This is our way of giving back to the community.”
 Participants in the outing are asked to meet at 10:00 at the Bassett Canoe Access. They should arrange to supply boat, paddles, life jackets, water and lunch; wear water-shedding artificial fabric or wool (not cotton, and certainly not blue jeans); and provide a back-up change of clothing. Since the river may be shallow in places, wear shoes appropriate for wading. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver.         

Directions: From US 220 north of Martinsville, take the VA 57 West/Fairystone Park Highway exit towards Stanleytown/Bassett. After about 3.4 miles, turn left at Fairystone Parkway/Lenoir Street. After about a mile, take the second right onto Lenoir Street/Trent Hill Drive. The Bassett Canoe Access will be on the left beside the factory building, at 271 Trent Hill Drive.

More Information: Charlie Williams, 336-337-8843,