Heading Down Stream

Twin River Outfitters

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

How To Make A River Town - Cool Article From Canoekayak.com

January 13, 2015 By Conor Mihell

In tracing waterways from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, canoeist Natalie Warren has had a lot of time to observe the role of rivers in promoting thriving communities. Now, she’s taking her message to river towns across the Midwest, including St. Cloud, Minn., where she was a keynote speaker at the Water Trails Tourism Summit. A member of the outdoor education nonprofit Wild River Academy, we contacted Warren to learn more about her “integrated recreation and economy” manifesto. — Conor Mihell

Natalie Warren

Natalie Warren

CanoeKayak.com: Talk about how both wild rivers and urban waterways have inspired your speaking interests.
Natalie Warren: I discovered my love of paddling and the outdoors through exploring wild rivers. On those trips, I admired the scenery and ecological health of the remote areas of the world. However, it takes big bucks and a lot of travel time to reach those areas, which excludes people with little money or little time from participating in such expeditions. When I paddled urban rivers from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay and from Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico, I realized that our local water trails have their own beauty and, even more, provide a classroom to learn how our country uses rivers. My experiences on wild and urban rivers inspired me to speak about building a culture around urban paddling, diversifying the paddling community, and increasing recreation, positively impacting all aspects of society.

How long have you been thinking about the role that waterways play in communities?
During our trip up to Hudson Bay, we paddled by communities along the Minnesota River, Red River, and Lake Winnipeg. We compared these communities and became experts on key components of a thriving riverfront. There’s a strong correlation between interaction with water trails and sustainable or growing economies. Several towns along our route were ghost towns or agricultural towns. Like a business, small towns should constantly advertise themselves to increase tourism and the money that flows into their economy. Historically, towns have chosen to depend on one or two industries, whether its agricultural towns, mining towns, cheese-plant towns, etc. On our trip we saw firsthand the repercussions of mono-economies. Agriculture, for example, used to require a whole community to tend to the land. Now one farmer can farm thousands of acres of corn or soybeans alone. Towns that were once vibrant have boarded up shops and barns falling into the ground.

I got to thinking. These farms, industries, and energy plants all had one thing in common: The river. It was on that trip that I began to understand the complexities of integrated recreation and the importance of diversified economies.


Paddling past towns on the Lower Mississippi tied to local energy plants during Paddle Forward’s 2013 expedition. Photo courtesy Paddle4Ward.com

What’s your end goal?
My goal is to use the river as a way to diversify small town economies, to increase tourism, and bring life back to river communities. I’ve seen it done before. I bet you can think of a small town like this, too — a place within a few hours of where you live where you can go for the weekend to bike, hike, canoe; a place with a coffee shop, an interpretive center, and a bed and breakfast; a place where you can unwind after a long day of recreating with a beer by the water. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Every town along a water trail has the potential to be that weekend getaway.

My end goal is decades in the making, and I am not the sole force in pushing for increased recreation on local waterways. Through my public speaking engagements, I hope to highlight the positive ripple effects of opening up to the river and prioritizing water trails to improve recreation and trails, tourism and economies, and increased environmental education and ecosystem health. It all starts with a paddle in the water.

What are some examples of communities that have embraced their riverfront?
There are several cities and towns that stand out from my travels up to Hudson Bay and down the Mississippi. Before I highlight a few places, here is a checklist of things that, in my opinion, make a great river town:

  • Access to the water
  • Outfitters
  • Hiking and biking paths
  • Restaurants and breweries
  • Museums, interpretive centers
  • Camping
  • B&B / Cabins
  • Lodging (Hotels / Inns)
  • Neighboring towns/cities with similar amenities

When our Paddle Forward expedition canoed through Wabasha, Minn., we wished we had a few more days to explore the area. Right after a long day of battling winds on Lake Peppin, we paddled right up to Reed’s Landing Brewery to have a beer by the water. The next day we paddled with someone who runs the local bed and breakfast and outfitter. He kayaked with us to the National Eagle Center (again, right on the river) where we learned about birds on the Big Muddy. This town has access to beautiful hiking paths on the bluffs by the river, an outfitter, a bed and breakfast, several restaurants, a great brewery, and just a quick jaunt from Red Wind (great place for climbing). It passes my checklist with flying colors.

Looking through the fog for America's next great paddling town during Paddle Forward's 2013 expedition down the Mississippi. Photo courtesy Paddle4Ward.com

Looking through the fog for America’s next great paddling town during Paddle Forward’s 2013 expedition down the Mississippi. Photo courtesy Paddle4Ward.com

The farther you go down the mighty Mississippi River, the harder it is to provide direct access to the water. Dubuque, Iowa was a memorable stop for us because, even though they still had retaining walls, the city built an enclosed harbor for boats to stop in and explore the city. We were able to paddle right up to the National Mississippi River Museum where the director let us stay the night in an old Army Corps dredging boat. We got together with city planners who showed us Dubuque’s Art on the River — a path along the Mississippi that displays new artwork every year. This project brings people of all ages out to interact with the river and helps market the city as a river town. Kudos for the creativity!

We were contacted by a community group in Montrose, Iowa, to invite us to stop and tour their town. Reaching out to paddlers is a great sign of a happy, proud river community. The sun set as we paddled the calm waters toward Montrose. We were greeted with flashing lights and honking horns as the community ran to the riverbank to welcome our group of paddlers. They held a dinner for us and we swapped stories about the river. The next day, members of the community gave us a tour of the button factory museum and we rode through town on the back of a trailer to learn about the town’s history. Turns out, Montrose was a major producer of buttons when buttons were made by drilling holes into mussel shells (before they were over-harvested). While Montrose may not fulfill all of the checklist categories, I have never met community members along the river who were more passionate about maintaining a culture around their waterway.

What’s in this for paddlers?
Local recreation heaven! As towns turn toward the river, paddlers will have the opportunity to take low-cost paddle trips with minimal travel time. This experience is not a replacement for your annual Boundary Waters trip or Arctic river expedition. Paddling locally is a great way to explore nearby water trails, learn more about your home state, and take a peek at the beauty in your own backyard. And eat a piece of pie at the coffee shop on the river while you’re at it. Every time you paddle locally you are partaking in a larger movement for the betterment of communities, ecosystems, and the future of river-town economies. That’s a lot to digest … good thing there is a brewery on the water!

— Read more about Warren’s argument for urban paddling corridors in our Voices of Wilderness series.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bay Journal Article on Upper James River Water Trail

The April 2014 Chesapeake Bay Journal included a great article on the Upper James River Water Trail.  Check out the link for the full article. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 2014 Fishing Blog

Spring has officially gotten here but “old man” winter is hanging on for everything he can find.  Water temperatures are still below 50 degrees F, which is my favorite temp to start trying to key in on pre-spawn smallmouths.  However, the warm weather is upon us and the fishing for lunkers is eminent — the only problem is that it is going to be a shorter window before they spawn and head elsewhere.  There are many reports of some good fish being caught on jigs and tubes on the days that the fish are willing to cooperate and the minnow bite is just around the corner.  What I mean by the “minnow” bite is that these fish will soon be willing to go after a crankbait, spinnerbait, fluke, or senko.  So, let’s focus on the spinnerbait in this month’s blog post.

Assorted blade styles and wire forms on some spinnerbaits

There is no question as to how valuable a spinnerbait is to a lake fisherman in the spring for largemouths and the river smallmouth will react to this bait in much the same way – you just have to be willing to deal with a few issues.  One issue is that the spinnerbait is fine around a log with no current but when stream current gets factored into the equation things can get a little touchy.  You have to realize that you are going to lose quite a few before the day is over.  I have found that the ones without the twist for the eyelet are a little more forgiving on the river.  Another issue is the weight of the spinnerbait – this is totally dependent on where you are targeting your fish.  If they are up tight to the bank behind boulders in less than 5 feet of water you could get away with a 1/4 ounce bait but if you are fishing for bass in deep wood you will need to go to 3/8 or 1/2 ounce baits.  A third issue is to decide as to what type and quantity of blade that you want on the wire form.  Personally, I prefer a single willow leaf.  My thoughts have always been that the willow leaf provides less drag than a colorado and looks more natural as a small minnow being chased by the bigger baitfish.  It will also get deeper quicker than other blade styles.  The biggest drawback of the willow is that it takes a little more water to turn the blade over but you already have the current helping you out on that scenario.  A real big issue is the color.  Natural colors are a great place to start but there are times that a chartreuse or a black bait are very effective.  I have seen chartreuse “come on” in the middle of the day on clear water conditions for no known reason and have seen the black or the black/blue spinnerbait become very effective right at dark.  One last consideration is whether to fish “with” or “without”.  This is like ordering a hamburger at the old Roanoke establishment called the Texas Tavern – you either got it with or without all of the “fixens”.  Some bass will go crazy if the spinnerbait is doctored up with a good sized trailer on the back but then there are those times that they will be turned off to the trailer and want to short strike everything. 
Whatever your curiosities or inclinations are, be willing to give a spinnerbait an honest try and you might surprise yourself, as I certainly learned years ago, that the spinnerbait will catch decent and even lunker sized smallmouths.  Finally, remember to be considerate of others on the river (the warmer weather will bring about lots of other boaters), be careful, and practice “catch and immediate release” – this will ensure that you or your partner will have some more good luck next time.   Until next time, thanks . . .

Richard Furman, Twin River Outfitters Fishing Guide

Clink link to see full article.  http://www.jamesriverguide.com/2014/04/03/april-2014/

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.