FSO Paddle in Danville, VA
June 3, 2017
10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
You’re invited to join the Dan River Basin Association’s June 3 First Saturday Outing, paddling the Dan from a private put-in to Abreu-Grogan Park in Danville, Virginia. Mark Bishopric, avid canoeist and DRBA board member, will coordinate the 5.75-mile float on Class I waters, suitable for novice boaters.
Participants are asked to meet at 10:00 a.m. near 548 Riverbend Road in Pittsylvania County to set the shuttle (GPS 36.568, -79.490). Three Rivers Outfitters of Eden, 336-627-6215 or www.3-R-O.com, will offer boat rentals and shuttle for the float.
Bishopric comments, “I look forward to learning about this stretch of the Dan River that is not often paddled because of limited public access from the upstream river in North Carolina.”
During the heyday of batteau traffic on the Dan River during the 19th century, these long, narrow wooden boats, the workhorses of commercial traffic, were common on the river in this area. An elaborate system of wing dams and sluices, with colorful names like Long Wall, Bull Sluice, and Monkey Race, were constructed to channel water through shallow places to enable the poled batteaux to pass easily. Late in the century, small steamboats plied the river, using these same navigation improvements. The “Lily of the Dan,” a stern-wheeler, ran excursions as far upriver as Madison, NC, nearly 50 miles upstream, in 1888.
In 1903 the construction of Schoolfield Dam in Danville put an end to batteau and steamboat traffic on the river, as the railroads took over hauling goods and people to and from markets. Water behind the dam backed up for several miles, submerging the navigation structures under water and sand. The City of Danville built Abreu-Grogan Park and boat access behind the dam, where the outing will end.
Schoolfield Dam provides a pool for Danville’s water supply intake, as well as a hydro plant. In 2015 after coal ash spilled from its Dan River Steam Station some 24 miles upstream, Duke Energy mounted an elaborate dredging operation at Abreu-Grogan Park to remove ash from the pool behind the dam. The company subsequently restored the park with improvements for public use.
As the first of five dams to be built in the City of Danville, Schoolfield Dam has a fish ladder on its face to enable spawning runs of Atlantic shad, herring, striped bass, and sturgeon to access upper parts of the Dan and its tributaries. As downstream dams were built without fish ladders, the fish were blocked and can no longer reach their ancestral spawning grounds.
Since the river is slowed and deepened by Schoolfield Dam, the current will be mild, without rapids. Boaters on this leisurely trip will have time to admire wildflowers and the late spring leaf cover along the banks that shelter a variety of songbirds and water-loving birds, such as herons, ducks, and kingfishers that nest alongside the river.
Participants in the outing are asked to provide boat, life jacket for each boater, lunch and water, to dress in layers of artificial (quick-drying) fabric and to sign a waiver.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS to put-in (GPS 36.568, -79.490) :
From US 58 Bypass in Danville/Pittsylvania County: Exit onto US 29 Business North. Drive north 0.4 miles. Turn left onto Mayfield Road, and drive 0.6 miles. Turn right onto Old Mayfield Road, and drive 1.4 miles. Turn left onto Riverbend Road. Proceed 0.5 miles to the end of the state-maintained road, and follow signs to the put-in location.
From US 29 in North Carolina, drive north, enter Virginia and continue onto US 29 Business North. Then follow above instructions.
Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge.
FURTHER INFORMATION: For trip information, contact trip coordinator Mark Bishopric, firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-627-6215. For information about the Dan River Basin Association, visit www.danriver.org.