When you consider paddling in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, rivers just like the Gauley, James, Nantahala, and Chattooga get numerous the love.
Whereas these rivers supply paddlers of every kind epic adventures and scenic views, they don’t seem to be all the time probably the most accessible rivers.
“It doesn’t always have to be extreme,” stated paddler Angel Verde. “You possibly can have something that’s simply fun and gets you on the market. It’s a matter of benefiting from your personal sense of journey and going for it.
As these paddlers can attest, the lesser-known rivers have simply as a lot to offer in the event you’re prepared to take the time and put your self out there.
A River Runs By means of Downtown
After leaving his job in international logistics, David Hennel and his spouse moved to Waynesboro, Va. the place he’s now a highschool instructor.
“We chose Waynesboro because I’m an outdoor junkie,” he stated. “I came through hiking years ago. We decided this would be a nice place to kind of chillax for the remainder of the years. You’ve got the busy Appalachian Trail. But if you want to avoid crowds, you go to the west end of the valley and nobody’s hiking the trails over there.”
Situated on the southern terminus of Shenandoah Nationwide Park, Waynesboro is lower than five miles from where the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive meet. Flowing right by means of city, the South River is much more accessible to anyone trying to get outdoors.
“I paddle like some people go for a walk,” Hennel stated. “As a small river, the South is not really a threatening river whatsoever. It’s really just a delightful river to relax on but yet it still has enough rapids in a few spots that make it a little more exhilarating. The fact that it’s close makes it that much better. It doesn’t eat up all your time. My day teaching ends at 3:15, so I’m meeting up at the takeout at Rife [Park] at 3:40 and I’m home before my wife is from her five o’clock get off work thing.”
When the climate is good and river circumstances are right, Hennel stated he’ll typically paddle three to four occasions every week.
“Every time I go down that river, I say to my paddling buddy, ‘We are so spoiled,’” Hennel stated. “We really are. I paddle more than anybody I know just because the river is in my backyard.” Since shifting to the world 15 years in the past, Hennel has started to see more locals taking an interest within the river.
“At first it was like I owned the place,” he stated. “I wouldn’t see anybody. Occasionally you’d get some other hardcore paddlers that would show up when the water was real high.”
In the present day, Hennel runs the South River Paddler Fb page the place other native paddlers element river circumstances, arrange river cleanups, and plan group paddles.
The group is starting to see the river as another amenity that could possibly be developed into an economic driver. The river already connects the town’s 5 main parks with boat ramps at every location for straightforward access.
“There are some people who think we’re going to bring manufacturing back into the Waynesboro area,” Hennel stated. “I’m seeing the students, the future labor force, and I really don’t see us heading in that direction because we don’t have the labor for that type of economic activity. But I do see that we have a lot of really great outdoor and historical amenities that we have to offer. The South River is definitely one of those.”
Dwayne Jones, the director of Waynesboro Parks and Recreation, stated he too has seen a change in how locals view the South River since he began with the division 25 years in the past.
“Folks looked at it as a negative aspect because properties were flooded,” he stated. “Ideas began to change, slowly over time, that the river could be an asset to the city and its community. In the last five to seven years in our department, we have been making a concerted effort to put people on the river.”
Along with adding more boat ramps alongside the river, the town is constructing a paved greenway that follows the river and connects the parks. The town is working to get the 4 mile stretch of river that runs via town designated as a scenic river.
Through the summer time months, the parks division gives a kayak rental program on weekends. For a low value, individuals can get on the water and paddle round Ridgeview Park. Sometimes, additionally they present guided trips down the river for paddlers who usually are not as snug going out on their own.
“When we take people down the river, they experience the city from a whole different perspective,” Jones stated. “You experience Waynesboro’s industrial heritage because you pass the old DuPont plant. You drift in and out of neighborhoods. Then you go into forested areas adjacent to our parks, and you can’t tell you’re in the city.”
Waynesboro’s industrial heritage is among the cause locals stayed away from the river for therefore long. Within the early 1900s, mercury from the DuPont plant made its method into the river by way of soil erosion. For decades, it went untreated.
“That mercury binds with the soil particles,” Jones stated. “It gets into the snails. The fish eat the snails, the birds eat the fish. So, it quickly gets through the food chain.”
Because the 1970s, the EPA and Virginia Division of Health have warned individuals not to eat fish caught from the South River.
As part of the authorized settlement, DuPont is now testing the river to seek out the very best deposits of mercury and removing layers of soil for remedy for two miles of river on both sides of the plant. They’re in the third part of the remediation undertaking targeted on restoring the river and habitat, which includes fishing entry factors within the parks.
A River Upgrade
For paddlers in search of somewhat greater than a float down the river, a gaggle of paddlers are working to put in a surf park on the South River close to North Park.
When Angel Verde moved to the Shenandoah Valley, he began exploring the world for locations to paddle.
“I would just drive,” he stated. “I started finding all of these stretches of river and the South River was one of the first ones I explored. I started out downtown and then I found out there were other parks and boat ramps downstream. It seems like in the last few years, just out of dumb luck, the same time I’ve been exploring and paddling this river more, the city and Parks and Rec is putting more time and effort into it. People don’t realize that these boat ramps are here and there’s not a lot of public knowledge about it.”
A good friend of Verde’s observed a naturally occurring wave on the river where they might surf on their standup paddleboards and kayaks.
“There were some small things that I did to it after starting to paddle there frequently like moving large rocks that could interfere with the main space of the wave or could be foot traps,” Verde stated. “If I was going to be encouraging people to come to this section to paddle, I wanted to make sure it was safe.”
Verde enlisted the help of different local paddlers to help him transfer a few of the bigger rocks. Within the previous few months, he has began meeting with other group members like Hennel and Jones to seek out funding for different enhancements to the wave park.
“It’s probably an eighth of a mile from the first feature to the last wave,” he stated. “So, you have this large section of river that sits right along North Park. We would be taking advantage of the grade of the river that’s already established there and making those features more prominent. Such as putting in eddies and creating a riverbed surface that actually generates a more usable rapid. It’s really taking advantage and very carefully taking control of what the river is doing in a place where it’s already ideal for these kind of features without causing drastic interruption.”
Since there isn’t any money for a undertaking like this in the metropolis price range, these paddlers want to the group. Verde has already spoken with engineers from the McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group concerning the logistics of placing in a wave park on the river.
“We could get a few more features in there that would allow people to work on catching eddies, work on their surfing, and getting to play in the water,” Hennel stated. “We don’t have enough for some major whitewater aspect, but we do have enough drop where we can accommodate some features that would allow especially the beginners and intermediates to come and actually improve their game.”
A surf park like this, that are sometimes found on larger rivers like the Gauley or James, can be yet one more amenity for locals and a draw for people who stay farther away.
“On the industry level, the most high-profile river waves are these big, high flow river waves,” Verde stated. “They are very high performance and the learning curve to be able to actually surf the wave that big is a pretty steep entry point. These are meant for experienced paddlers and river surfers or people who are willing to just get beat up until they learn how to do it. Whereas a wave on a river that flows like the South River does has a much broader entry level. You can take kids out onto a wave that flows that low or tube on a wave that low. It’s approachable in a broad sense.”
Finally, Verde hopes this undertaking will encourage more paddlers of all talent levels to discover the world they stay in.
“Rivers like the South River are really prime candidates for bridging that gap between something approachable that people can learn the skills that they can then translate to larger, more aggressive man made or natural features,” Verde stated. “It’s really trying to facilitate and build the community to a broader audience versus just catering to the diehards.”
The Sister River
Not too far from Waynesboro and the South River, volunteers with the Pals of the Middle River are dealing with a unique sort of entry drawback.
“There are no public access sites anywhere on our river,” Kate Guenther stated. “It is completely privately owned. A lot of people don’t know about the river because they can’t get to it.”
In 2010, Associates of the Center River shaped in response to a Virginia Division of Environmental Quality report that said the Middle River was impaired. Guenther is the group’s watershed administrator and only paid worker.
“We’re all agriculturally based,” she stated. “We don’t have any big urban areas on our river or industry, unlike the South River that has all sorts of fallout from industry. But we have the fallout from agriculture. We have increased E. coli bacteria in the river from cows being in the river, increased sediment in the river from run off and farm practices, and increased nitrogen from farm practices and fertilization practices.”
Along with organizing water quality testing and river cleanups, the Pals of the Middle River began a river access program to deal with the shortage of public land alongside the river.
“We coordinate between private landowners who are willing to have people come onto their property just so that they can put in and take out their boats on the river,” Guenther stated. “Our program is a voluntary thing where certain landowners who are okay with people coming down are listed. If people sign up for the program, they of course have to agree to be nice to the landowners and the land, take care of it, and follow all of the rules.”
In its first yr, seven personal properties have been added to the program and 100 members registered from across the area.
This system is free however does require registration to participate. As soon as registered, members receive a placard for his or her automotive window. Every time a paddler needs to use one of many personal properties as a put in or take out spot, they should make preparations with those specific landowners
“People who are local around here really do seem excited about it,” Guenther stated. “This opens up a new venue for fishing and boating that was completely inaccessible before. But it’s something you do have to plan a little bit in advance to make those connections with the private landowners for permission.”
The Middle River runs 70 miles in Central Virginia before becoming a member of with the North River to type the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. With the personal properties at present signed on, 44 of these miles are available for paddling with put ins and take outs.
“When we list a private property as an access point, we’re going out and scouting it,” Guenther stated. “We’re making sure that you can pull in there and park. So, these are pretty accessible sites, but they’re not developed boat ramps.”
In the course of the summer time, the Buddies of the Middle River arrange group journeys on the river.
“The purpose of those float trips really is to make it easy for people to use this river,” Guenther stated. “For people who feel like they need a little extra help getting used to going onto private land, they can join our float trip and actually see the put in and take out in a facilitated way. Hopefully once they’ve done it once, they’ll feel comfortable initiating it themselves down the line.”
As this system continues to develop, Guenther stated they may continue to search for more landowners to associate with to increase the river’s accessibility.
Hollie Corridor glides down the Cumberland River in the course of the 2018 mighty Cumberland River Run. / Photograph by Gerry Seavo James
Calling All Paddlers
As an alternative of specializing in a singular body of water, the organizers behind the Kentucky Waterman Collection purpose to introduce paddlers to quite a lot of waterways via a paddle race collection.
Gerry Seavo James started the collection as part of the Explore Kentucky Initiative, one thing he started in school to advertise outside recreation and conservation across the state.
“I don’t see these events as just events,” he stated. “I see them as creative placemaking of social art. We’re trying to shift people’s mentalities about rivers. Get them to love them and see them as living, breathing beings to be taken care of. We’re trying to influence safety on the water by wearing your PFD. We’re also trying to promote public health, family, and community. And then we’re also trying to drive economic development.”
The initiative began on social media by means of Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. As more individuals began to attach with the outdoors by way of Discover Kentucky, James started providing guided hikes and paddles to encourage extra individuals to get outdoors.
As somebody who had been paddleboarding for years, James received concerned with the local paddling group and promoting the sport.
“This guy named Bob Diehl reached out to me,” he stated. “We call him the SUP Master of Kentucky. He invited me to be a part of the event committee for Riverthon to help with marketing, logistics, and stuff like that. From that event, we got over 150 paddlers from all around the country. I thought, ‘What if we do a series?’”
From there, the thought took maintain. Now in its third yr, the Kentucky Waterman Collection consists of 13 races in four states. A portion of the racing fees go in the direction of numerous organizations like We Need to Play and Kentucky Heartwood.
A few of the events, such as the Bluegrass River Run and Outside Leisure Pageant, James places on by way of the Explore Kentucky Initiative. The other races are put on by numerous organizers who associate with the Waterman Collection. Every race uses the same class and level methods in order that paddlers know what to anticipate.
“Essentially, we’re like a union,” James stated. “We’re all partnered together which helps amplify these events more. I couldn’t do all of this stuff without the communities I work with, the volunteers, and friends. They are really integral to these partnerships.”
Wendy Scott, a paddleboarding teacher in West Virginia, caught the racing bug in 2017.
“I was scrolling through Facebook and saw an ad for a Kentucky Waterman Series race,” she stated. “The more I read about the series, what Gerry had been doing, how the points all worked together, and how you get several races throughout the year, that really sparked my interest as something I could do for a long time.”
After attending several races in the Waterman Collection, Scott stated she and a pal have been inspired to start out their very own race. In Might, they held the Inaugural Virtually Heaven Paddle Battle on Summersville Lake in West Virginia as part of the collection.
“It’s been inspirational in helping other communities grow economically by bringing people to our area,” Scott stated. “I told Gerry I want to be like him when I grow up, even though I’m older than him. I’m inspired by his passion for the areas he’s trying to promote and the way that it brings so many people to areas they may have never explored.”
With multiple races, the collection encourages paddlers to discover totally different rivers and elements of the state all year long.
“Kentucky has 120 counties,” James stated. “The big thing I’ve noticed with tourism is that often it focuses on the same areas. I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t try to figure out how I can highlight more communities.”
However these occasions are about extra than simply the races. Each occasion has a float element the place paddlers can select to discover the waterway without the competitive facet of the race.
“The idea was not just to attract paddlesports aficionados, but to also get the recreational paddlers out there,” Matt Walker stated. “The idea is to get people to care about our waterways. It’s not just caring from the standpoint of hey, let’s go paddle and pick up garbage in the river. It’s our waterways are suffering. We need to look at the point source. We need to go to council meetings trying to get money for solid waste removal in our community so that it doesn’t end up in our rivers and streams.”
Walker works with James, helping to plan and function the races. Because the collection becomes extra widespread, Walker stated he sees the potential for these events to incorporate a music or food pageant element as a solution to embrace much more individuals.
“I really think that it could illuminate so many other areas around the state that people are missing out on,” he stated. “If the Kentucky River runs through Central Kentucky and dumps into the Ohio, and people overlook it as a resource, you can only imagine that they’re overlooking smaller, more intimate streams.”
The hope is that the extra paddlers there are on the water, the more individuals there are caring concerning the water.
“We’ve got three million people here in Kentucky,” Walker stated. “If we get half a million people out on the waterways and we get five percent of those people excited about conservation efforts for our waterways, then we’ve started making a difference. I think we get caught up in the excitement that this is a race series and we forget that the race series is actually an avenue for bigger, better things.”
Extra Backyard Journey Rivers
- Stonycreek River (Penn.): There is something for everybody on the Stoneycreek River, together with Class I-V rapids and a whitewater park in Johnstown accessible for newbies and tubers.
- Cacapon River (W. Va.): Escape from the town to this scenic river with 70 to 80 % of this river surrounded by timber.
- Potomac River (D.C.): The Potomac, or the “Nation’s River,” is accessible from elements of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia, flowing by means of our nation’s capital into the Chesapeake Bay.
- Edisto River (S.C.): From the rolling hills of Piedmont to the marshes on the coast, the Edisto River takes paddlers by means of the southern part of South Carolina. Its darkish shade comes from the tannins that leak into the water from decayed leaves and other plant matter.
- Flint River (Ga.): In line with American Rivers, the Flint is one among solely 40 rivers in the nation to movement for greater than 200 miles and not using a dam.
- Neuse River Blueway (N.C.): The Neuse River connects Raleigh to New Bern and is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Path’s paddle route.
- The Parklands of Floyds Fork (Ky.): Floyds Fork connects 4 major parks in Louisville. Inside these parks, you’ll find miles of trails for mountaineering, biking, fishing, and paddling.