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Thursday July 16, 2015

You're invited to the Dan River Basin Association's (DRBA's) August 1 First Saturday Outing on the Smith River. Launching at Mitchell Bridge Access, paddlers will float 7.5 miles, taking out on private property close to Morgan Ford Bridge near Sandy Level, Virginia, with the owner's permission.

This section of the river is rated as Class I, suitable for novice paddlers. 

Along the way, participants will collect litter from the river as part of the great Smith River Cleanup. Other portions of the Smith will be cleaned up in the summer and fall for a total of some fifty river miles.

Meeting at 10:00 a.m. at Mitchell Bridge Access on Mitchell Road (VA 636) (GPS 36.60264, -79.77658), participants will unload boats and gear, sign waivers, and set the shuttle. Three Rivers Outfitters of Eden, 336-627-6215 or www.3-R-O.com, will offer boat rentals and shuttle for the outing. Paddlers are urged to choose canoes instead of kayaks, since more trash can be loaded into canoes.

Coordinator for the outing is long-time DRBA board member and avid paddler Wayne Kirkpatrick.  Wayne comments, "The Smith flows at a leisurely pace through this beautiful section.  Paddlers can enjoy a 'double your pleasure, double your fun' float by getting unsightly litter out of the river while enhancing an already scenic stretch."           

After passing some rock outcrops, paddlers may notice Middle Creek, which enters on the left about a mile below Mitchell Bridge. Within the next two miles, Grassy Fork and Turkeypen Branch enter from the right, the latter just before Whale Rock on the right. Forested banks throughout the trip are punctuated by summer wildflowers, such as Fire Pinks and Black-eyed Susans.

Occasional small rapids or gravel shoals interrupt the flatwater in this quiet, remote section of the Smith. Half a mile below Whale Rock is Goodwin's Island near where Joseph Goodwin's mill stood in the 1700s. Another half mile brings the group to a gravel bar where Break Reed Ford allowed travelers to cross the river as late as the 1920s.

Two miles further downstream, Home Creek enters on the left beside Big Rock, which marks the last mile of the float.

Near the take-out is Morgan's Ford, used from about 1800. It was replaced by the first Morgan Ford Bridge, now marked by three stone piers about 20 feet high.

In 1953 the current Morgan Ford Bridge, the last remaining steel truss bridge spanning the Smith River, was assembled from other structures-a perfect example of resource reuse. According to DRBA's "An Insider's Guide to the Smith River," available at www.danriver.org, "The through-truss part was built in 1887, moved here from Pittsylvania County." From Mecklenburg County came the low truss; the steel girders are from Salem; and the plate girders are from the Norfolk & Western railroad overpass in Vinton.

Participants in the outing are asked to dress in layers of quick-drying fabric, to wear close-toed shoes, and be prepared to get wet. All are asked to provide boat, paddles, life jacket and gloves for each boater, lunch, water, and trash bags, and to sign a waiver. Canoes are preferable to kayaks, since they can carry more trash.

To reach Mitchell Bridge Access from US 58 in Virginia: At Axton, turn south onto Axton Road (County Road 610). Drive 1.6 miles. Turn right onto Barker Road (County Road 622). Drive 3.1 miles. At Irisburg, continue straight onto Mitchell Road (County Road 636). Drive 3.8 miles to the access on the right just before the bridge.

From Eden, NC: Take NC 14/87(Van Buren Road) north into Virginia for 1.6 miles. Turn right onto Farmbrook Road. Drive 0.4 miles, and turn left onto Old Leaksville Road (County Road 1013). Drive 1.6 miles, and turn right onto Mitchell Road (County Road 636). Drive 4.5 miles to the access on the left just beyond the bridge.

From Ridgeway, VA: Take VA 87 south. Turn left onto Old Leaksville Road (County Road 1013). Drive 1.2 miles, and turn left onto Mitchell Road (County Road 636). Drive 4.5 miles to the access on the left just beyond the bridge.

Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge.

For more information about the outing, contact Wayne Kirkpatrick,wynbtyk@embarqmail.com or 540-570-3511.          

For information about the Dan River Basin Association, visitwww.danriver.org.

Tags: Canoeing, , Paddling, River, Smith River