November 2, 2013


Boat rentals and shuttle will be available at Three Rivers Outfitters of Eden, 336-627-6215,, or from Danville Parks & Recreation (reserved before noon on November 1), 434-799-5215, Danville Parks & Rec Rent A Boat.

Coordinator for the trip is Lucas Conkle, avid kayaker and chair of DRBA’s Outings Committee. The river is rated Class I, with a low Class II rapid at the broken Brantley Dam beside Dan Daniel Memorial Park.

"While you can appreciate the beauty of the Dan by walking along the Riverwalk,” Conkle comments, “you can't truly experience it unless you get out on the river.  This is a great stretch to see familiar things in a whole new way."

Wildlife is surprisingly rich and varied in downtown Danville, the only truly urban section of the entire river. River otters are sometimes seen frolicking in the water, and river cooters (turtles) sun themselves atop boulders. An osprey nest overlooks the water where other water-loving birds, such as herons, ducks, geese, and kingfishers, are frequently spotted. Forested sections of the bank, likely to be displaying their autumn glory in early November, host a variety of songbirds and small animals.

Also varied are the major transportation bridges under which paddlers will pass. Pedestrians and bicyclists cross the Dan on the Richmond & Danville Pedestrian Bridge, a former railroad bridge that is now a prominent feature of the city’s Crossing at the Dan. The Norfolk & Southern Railroad Bridge carries trains between Atlanta and New York. And highway traffic streams over the Dan on the double bridges of US-29/US-58 halfway through the trip.

Founded in 1793 at a series of major rapids, Danville became a commercial and transportation center for the region. The Dan River powered early sawmills and gristmills via mill races that took advantage of these rapids.

By the 1820s, the mill race on river right was enlarged and modified to become a batteau canal and locks that enabled long, narrow wooden batteaux to carry goods past the river’s formidable rock ledges and rapids. According to Dr. William Trout’s Dan River Atlas, each of Danville’s three canal locks “could hold a boat up to 10 feet wide and 68 feet long.”

In 1885 the batteau canal became the source of power for Moratock Mills, later Dan River Mills, a major textile manufacturer for over a century.

During the Civil War, Danville’s tobacco warehouses were used as Confederate military prisons, and a Confederate hospital complex was located in the city. In 1865 as the Confederate government fled oncoming Union troops on the Richmond & Danville Railroad, Danville became the last capital of the Confederacy. Its capitol building was the Sutherlin Mansion on Main Street, now the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.

Long a transportation center, Danville is the site of the 1903 Wreck of the Old 97, fatal to its engineer and ten crewmen, when the train ran too fast around a curve on a trestle overlooking Union Street Bridge. A contemporary ballad, now a classic of old-time string music, immortalized the wreck.

Participants in the outing should supply boat, paddles, life jackets, lunch, and water; wear water-shedding synthetic fabric or wool; and be prepared to get wet. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver.

To reach Newton’s Landing from the south: Take US 29 N toward Virginia. Continue 5.8 miles on US-29 N/US-58E/Danville Expressway. Take the Goodyear Blvd. exit, and turn left onto Goodyear Boulevard. Drive 1 mile, and turn right onto Industrial Avenue. Industrial Avenue becomes Craghead Street. Drive 0.5 mile, and turn right onto Newton Street. Drive one block and enter the parking lot behind 500 Bridge Street.

From the east: Take US-58 W/US-360 W to Danville. Turn left onto Main Street /VA-293 South. Cross Dan River, and immediately turn sharp left onto Main Street/VA-293 North. Turn slight right onto Bridge Street. Drive 3 blocks, and turn left into parking lot behind 500 Bridge Street.

From the west: Take US-58 E to Danville. Stay straight onto US-58-BR-E/Riverside Drive. Drive 6.5 miles, and turn slight right onto ramp to Piedmont Drive/Park Avenue. Cross Dan River and turn left onto US-29-BR N. Drive 1.4 miles, and stay straight onto Memorial Drive/VA-413 N. Turn slight left onto Main Street/VA-293 N. Immediately turn slight right onto Bridge Street. Drive 3 blocks, and turn left into parking lot behind 500 Bridge Street.

DRBA invites the public to join in, free of charge.

For questions about the outing, contact Lucas Conkle,