Over 30 boaters spent a beautiful Saturday morning on a leisurely float down the Smith River from the Marrowbone Creek Access to Mitchell Bridge.
This 3.5-mile "blueway" section of the Smith River Trail is incredibly diverse and scenic, as well as one of the most popular floats for novice and experienced boaters alike. Canoes and kayaks of all shapes and colors cast off at 10:30 a.m. led by Dan River Basin Association President and trip coordinator, Wayne Kirkpatrick, along with volunteer assistance from Charlie Williams, Betty Kirkpatrick, and other DRBA members.
For the first half mile of the trip, the river flows alongside the Gravely Nature Preserve where paddlers enjoyed views of the lush Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel thickets.
Perhaps one of our most popular sections of the Smith River is also one of our most beautiful. Following the "emerald ribbon" past hardwood ridges and over gentle rapids, the meandering flow carries travelers past towering sycamores, beech and river birch, as muskrats dive under water and kingfishers zip upstream calling wildly and searching for their next meal. Trilliums and showy orchids hide alongside a small stream flowing into the river at the far end of the Gravely Nature Preserve, only discovered by the most observant,
while the pinxter azealas hang out over the water, hard to miss with their showy pink blooms, stunning this time of year, but soon they too will yield to green as Spring gives way to Summer.
Henry County, in partnership with the Dan River Basin Association, has made the Smith River accessible to the public over the past two years by building public access points at five new sites along the river, including the Marrowbone Creek Access. There are currently 6 canoe access sites on the Smith River betweem Philpott Dam and the North Carolina line. Several more ramps are needed to allow the public additional access to enjoy and appreciate one of Henry County's greatest natural assets.
The last set of rapids is in site at Long Island and too soon the trip is done.
It seems the trip just got started and now it's time to leave. At Mitchell Bridge, the boaters take out and leave the river behind, some a little more damp than others, with photos and memories of one of Henry County's hidden treasures.
Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge. For information on the Dan River Basin Association visit http://www.danriver.org/.