As Dan River Basin Association member Paul Lowery and his friend, John Johnson, both of South Boston, unloaded their kayaks at the Banister River Boat Landing in Halifax on Saturday morning, they mentioned how they’ve been making these paddling trips for years.

“This one just happens to be in our backyard,” said Lowery.

They were two of 15 individuals who decided to join DRBA on their first Saturday outing. The planning of the estimated 6-mile launch and return excursion to “The Rock House” proved to be rocky, as this event was rescheduled multiple times due to the coronavirus.

Wayne Kirkpatrick, DRBA board member, explained they typically try to complete 12 paddle trips from April to October then host hiking trips from November until March.

With the planning proving to be troublesome, some such as Lowery felt an even greater need to come out and support, DRBA and Carl Espy, Halifax town manager who also helped plan the trip.

“It’s a nice chance to get out,” said Lowery.

Mark Estes, another DRBA member, agreed, along with his son-in-law, Jamie Shelton, who joined him.

They had begun the day fishing in the Banister as they waited for the 9 a.m. launch time.

“I caught one — I’m golden,” Estes said with a grin.

He went on to explain how he has been able to explore the different areas of the Dan River Basin thanks to DRBA.

It is through environmental education, stewardship and outdoor recreation that Kirkpatrick said they try to preserve and promote natural resources.

He said they establish partnerships to create infrastructure and build trails while maintaining those relationships.

Whether a paddler prefers the rapids and rock ledges to the west within the Dan River watershed or the lazy rivers to the east, Kirkpatrick said their passion could be found downstream.

“We’re a great organization who welcomes everyone…we like to have a good time,” he added.

DRBA board president Sonya Wolen said she’s happy to have the connection to the association, and while she normally sticks to hiking where she can bring her dog, she was glad to see Saturday’s outing bring individuals from all over the watershed as she pointed out guests from Chatham, Stuart, South Boston, Caswell County of North Carolina and Eden of North Carolina.

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at