The public is invited to join the Dan River Basin Association’s July 6 First Saturday Outing, launching at Eden’s Draper Landing Access. Mark Bishopric, avid paddler and DRBA board member, will coordinate the 7-mile float from the public river access point to just below the Berry Hill Bridge at the North Carolina-Virginia line.
Participants are asked to meet at 10 a.m. at the access’s graveled parking lot beside the NC 700 Bridge to set the shuttle (GPS 36.4987, -79.6814). Three Rivers Outfitters of Eden, 336-627-6215 or www.3-R-O.com, will offer boat rentals and shuttle for the float, which will end on private property with the owner’s permission.
In this Class I trip, participants will navigate at least seven ledges and shoals with long-standing historic names found on old maps. Six of these have been made easier to navigate by structures such as sluice walls built in the 19th century by the Roanoke Navigation Company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The sluices concentrate the river’s water over shallow ledges, creating a channel deep enough to float long, narrow batteaux, the commercial “semi-trailers” of early river travel. Today’s boaters benefit from the still-working navigation system that makes the river floatable even in extreme drought.
Nearly a century before the river was improved for navigation, in 1728 a survey team led by Virginia’s William Byrd determined the “dividing line” between North Carolina and Virginia. Byrd named the Dan River for the river in northern Israel and gave names that still survive to many of the river’s tributaries. One was Cascade Creek, which enters from river left about halfway through the trip, so called “by reason of the multitude of waterfalls that are in it” some distance before it reaches the Dan.
Devil’s Jump Shoal, just downstream from Cascade Creek, is named for impressive mid-river rocks. On river right less than a mile further downstream is the confluence of the Dan with Tanyard Creek, named for the tannery owned by John Morehead, father of North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead, who grew up nearby.
Other examples of intriguing 19th-century labels are Beasley’s Gallows Shoal Sluice and the well-preserved Hairston’s Fish Trap Sluice, likely modified from an Indian fish weir built 1,000 years ago.
The trip is part of the series of year-round First Saturday Outings that have been offered by DRBA for 17 years. On earlier floats along this section of the Dan, clusters of large great blue heron nests have been spotted high in the trees. Herons often escort DRBA’s flotilla along the river, unless they are busy with their family duties.
Other interesting facts about the geology, history, and culture of this section of the river are found in Maps 42 - 45 of “An Insider’s Guide to the Dan River in North Carolina and Virginia,” available at www.danriver.org.
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.