Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DRBA Plans Smith River Float - November 5

DRBA First Saturday Outing on Popular Section!

On November 5 the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) will celebrate autumn with a float on the most popular section of the Smith River-Marrowbone Creek Access to Mitchell Bridge Access in Henry County, Virginia.

Meeting at 10:00am at the Richard P. Gravely, Jr. Nature Preserve, 2525 Eggleston Falls Road in Ridgeway, VA (36.611067,-79.817712), the group will launch canoes and kayaks at the nearby access point. The 3.5-mile "blueway" Smith River Trail section, rated Class 1, is suitable for novice paddlers.

For boat rentals and shuttle, contact Smith River Adventure Outfitters,276-252-0701, or Three Rivers Outfitters, 336-627-6215, 276-340-3983,

Trip coordinator is Wayne Kirkpatrick, President of DRBA, 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 Rhododenron Trail. As the name implies, the path winds through a rhododenron thicket as it hugs the river's edge.

About a mile farther on, Leatherwood Creek enters from river left. Paddlers may choose to enter the wide mouth of the creek and take a leisurely side trip upstream to observe fall foliage and birdlife. 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 the Leatherwood Creek is a broad rounded boulder in the middle of the river. Known locally as "Lunch Rock," It makes "a perfect spot to stop for a break," according to "An Insider's Guide to the Smith River," DRBA's detailed river guide available at

Henry County, in partnership with DRBA, has made the Smith River accessible to the public over the past four 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 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 cemetary, 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 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.

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.

Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge.
For information about the outing, contact Wayne Kirkpatrick, 276-694-4449 or

For membership information, visit

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DRBA to Clean Historic Section of Dan River

You're invited to DRBA's October 1 outing - a 5-mile cleanup float on the Dan River from Whetstone Creek to Eden. Meet at 10:00am at the NC Wildlife Access in Eden (36.4752, -79.7503), We'll paddle through several navigation sites, well-preserved ninetenth century river structures now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Corrdinated by T and Lindley Butler, the cleanup is part of NC Big Sweep, the statewide component of an international watershed cleanup. Participants record the types of trash they find,contributing to statistics that help design educational programs to prevent littering.

T Butler, who served for many years on the NC Big Sweep Board of Directors, says,"I am extremely proud of DRBA's roll in working to keep our rivers clean and safe. Our goal is litter-free waters throughout the Dan River Basin in North Carolina and Virginia.

"And", she adds, "DRBA participants always have a good time while we're collecting litter."

The navigation structure in the Dan, built in the 1820's and expanded as late as the 1880's, include sluices, landings, and wing dams that made the river usable by flatbottomed batteaux, the long, narrow workhorses of nineteenth century river commerce in the region.

According to Lindley Butler, a senior North Carolina historian,"The structures channel the water through rapids and ledges that would have blocked the batteaux, each of which carried several tons of goods. Present-day recreational users enjoy the effects of these structures, which have been self-maintaining for over 130 years.

"Because of the navigation system," he continues, "this section is rated as Class 1, suitable for novice paddlers. The improvements made in the 19th century enable us to float the Dan throughout Rockingham County even in times of extreme drought."

In this section, boaters will pass through several of these improvements, including Galloway's Lower Ford Sluice and Sneed Strong's Fish Dam Sluice. Two miles into the trip, on river left, was the Grief Wade Plantation where coal was mined during the Civil War and shipped by batteau to heat military prisons in Danville.

Just after passing the confluence of Buffalo Island Creek on river left, boaters will pass under the Harrington Highway Bridge, the site of former Hamlin's (Menzies) Island. Students of river hydrology explain that islands appear and disappear as a result of water action during heavy storms and floods.

Nearby on river left one may see a fine stand of the river cane common on the river when William Byrd surveyed the "Dividing Line" in 1728 but now gradually disappearing throughout much of the river's length.

During a lunch break at Leaksville Landing, boaters can view the crib structure in the river to which the nineteenth century batteaux were moored. Leaksville Landing is the only known batteau port in the United States.

After lunch participants will drift past Johnston's Landing and then the site of the former Leaksville Covered Bridge, where a massive stone pier from the 1852 span survives, along with a 150-foot-long sluice wall on river right.

One of the last points of interest on the trip will be the confluence of the Smith River, which enters the Dan from river left. More information may be found on Maps 47-50 of An Insider's Guide to the Dan River, available at

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

Boats may be rented from Three Rivers Outfitters, 336-627-6215,

To reach Eden Wildlife Access from the north, travel south on NC 14 through the city of Eden. After crossing the Dan River, turn right at the traffic signal onto Harrington Highway. Take the first right, Bethlehem Church Road, turning right again at the Wildlife Access.

From the south, turn left off NC 14 onto Harrington Highway at the traffic signal just south of the Dan River. Turn right onto Bethlehem Church Road, then turn right to the Wildlife Access.

From the west, take NC 770 or NC 135 towards Eden. Turn right onto Harrington Highway and continue to Bethlehem Church Road. Turn left, and then right to the Wildlife Access.

From the northeast take US 58 to Danville's western city limit, turning left on Road 863 to Berryhill Community, where 863 becomes NC 770 West. Follow NC 770 West into Eden to NC 14. Turn left onto NC 14 and travel south through Eden, cross the Dan River and turn right at the traffic signal onto Harrington Highway. Take the first right, Bethlehem Church Road, turning right again at the Wildlife Access.

For more information, contact T Butler, 336-349-5727,

For membership information, visit