Heading Down Stream

Twin River Outfitters

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Buchanan, VA
653 Lowe Street Buchanan, VA 24066
Web http://canoevirginia.net
Email: tro@canoevirginia.net
Phone: 540-261-7334

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Project aims for busier James River, Roanoke Times Sunday, February 16, 2014 8:30 pm

There is a rule of thumb for paddling the James River. If the combined temperature of the water and air don’t add up to 110 degrees, then leave it for another day. In the dead of winter, the only people contemplating a float on the James are daydreamers and the folks who want to make the experience come summer more enjoyable for others.

Folks like Pete Peters, Botetourt County’s director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and others involved in the Upper James River Water Trail.

They recently got together to talk about what comes next for the project, launched just a few years ago.
Peters said there are now eight public places to launch a boat along the 45 miles of the James River flowing through Botetourt County.

Not all of them are easy to spot from the river. If an inexperienced kayaker misses a takeout, he might be in for a longer, more difficult journey than he anticipated.  That could change in the next few years. Peters said the group is working to develop more access points and to mark the water trail, much the same as a mountain trail, so that users know where they are and where the takeout points are located. Should something go wrong, rescuers would also have better reference points for finding those who land in a spot of trouble. “We want to come up with a river mile-marking system, and are working with the James River Association,” Peters said.

The James River runs 340 miles from its head in Iron Gate to the Chesapeake Bay. No group has yet marked it for recreation.  Peters said they haven’t settled on the type of sign, but that most likely it will have a logo and a number to mark the mile on the front and back. By working with the James River Association, the Botetourt organization is hoping that a unified design can be adopted for the length of the river.
Plans are to hang the signs on islands and overpasses and have them in place by the spring of 2015.
“Right now there are places where people have spray-painted dots on trees, if you know what to look for,” he said. But they aren’t always easy to spot or recognize, and boaters can miss their planned picnic or takeout spot.

Peters said they are also working to develop more access points and have identified three places — Last Lock near Eagle Rock, Glen Wilton and Roaring Run — that lend themselves to public improvements.
“Folks are already using them,” Peters said.  Last Lock is a spot marked with a flagpole to memorialize the last lock on the James River. The land is maintained by a garden club and owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which acquired it decades ago from CSX Corp.  “It’s above Eagle Rock proper on the left at a bend in the James,” Peters said. “What the county would like to do is see if it can be fully developed into a wayside park and boat launch.” And because it is near iron ore furnaces, Peters envisions a greenway running along the river linking attractions that visitors might want to explore.
Peters said county officials are already talking with VDOT and with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation on developing that area as well as the other two. Since many of the same people are involved in all three projects, Peters said, the county will work on them concurrently.

The water trail project was started in 2008 with planning and was officially launched in 2010 and continues to attract more people looking to canoe, kayak or fish along the Upper James River.
It’s hard to take an official count, but there are two measures. The first is what Peters calls the “eyeball test.” On a warm day the parking areas at the access points are filled. Then, there’s increased commerce.
Peters said new camps have started, business licenses for activities along the James have increased, fishing guides and outfitters are reporting upticks in business, and a few property owners have inquired about zoning changes so they can offer lodging.

He expects businesses catering to river users will continue to grow as the water trail is further developed.
Contact Luanne Rife at luanne.rife@roanoke.com.


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