Dan River Basin Association's July 2nd First Saturday Outing
Thursday June 9, 2016
You are invited to join the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) for a first-time event on Saturday, July 2. DRBA's First Saturday Outing will float the Smith River from The Great Road Access in Fieldale to Doe Run Access in Martinsville, VA. Wayne Kirkpatrick and Mark Bishopric, both expert paddlers and DRBA board members, will coordinate the trip, rated as Class I - II.
Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Great Road Access across the road from Solutia Performance Films, Eastman Chemical Company, 4210 The Great Road, Fieldale, VA (GPS 36.727121, -79.948757) to unload boats and gear and set the shuttle. For boat rentals and shuttle, contact Three Rivers Outfitters, 336-627-6215, www.3-r-o.com.
Constructed through a partnership of DRBA and Henry County, the Great Road Access and an adjacent 500-foot-long trail were made possible through the generosity of Solutia Performance Films. When the access was opened in September, 2010, plant manager Joe Stultz was quoted as saying, "This is our way of giving back to the community."
Both the Great Road and Doe Run accesses are part of the Smith River Trail System, a growing network of blueways and greenways designed to connect riverside communities through Henry County, VA, downstream to Eden, NC. About halfway through the float, boaters will pass two other elements of the system, the Fieldale Canoe Access and the Fieldale Trail, both visible on river right.
Co-coordinator Mark Bishopric notes that DRBA has not floated this section before, because summertime water levels are usually too low. However, this summer, repairs at Philpott Dam require more water to be released into the river, making it possible to navigate this section.
On river left for the first five miles of the trip, the Norfolk Southern Railway line parallels the river, serving past and present factories in the important industrial corridor of Martinsville, Fieldale, Stanleytown, and Bassett.
Bridges over rivers are usually built where solid rock provides firm footing for the bridge pilings. A half mile into the float, the "220 Rapids," where US 220 crosses the Smith, mark the rocky base for the highway's double bridges. Reed Creek joins the river from the left at this rapid.
About 2 ½ miles farther on, the Fieldcrest/Cannon Textile Mill dominates the skyline on the right at the first of two bridges in Fieldale. At the second Fieldale bridge, Jordan Creek enters the river on the right, shortly before the Fieldale Trail begins hugging the bank. The trailhead, located ¾ mile along the trail, is at the Fieldale Canoe Access. Both the two-mile trail and the access were joint projects of DRBA and Henry County.
In An Insider's Guide to the Smith River, DRBA program manager Brian Williams notes that "huge iron cylinders filled with concrete rest in the middle of the river near the mouth of Beaver Creek." The explanation is the sand dredge that supplied the historic Koehler concrete plant on river left just downstream.
A mile later, the Smith changes its mind about flowing south, turning west, then northwest for nearly a mile, and abandoning the railroad. Grassy Creek enters from river right as the river resumes its southerly path toward the now-closed Dupont Textile Complex.
The last 1.5 miles of the trip will be on backwater slowed by the Martinsville Dam. Doe Run Canoe Access, on river left at Doe Run Park, is off Dupont Road near the former factory. Opened in 1941 to manufacture a brand-new product, women's nylon hosiery, the Dupont plant switched to producing parachutes and B-29 bomber tires during World War II. Resuming peace-time production after 1945, the plant flourished through the 1960s, only to be down-sized during hard economic times and finally closed in 1998.
Participants in the outing should supply boat, paddles, life jackets, water and lunch; wear water-shedding synthetic fabric or wool (not cotton, and certainly not blue jeans); and provide a back-up change of clothing. Since the river may be shallow in places, wear close-toed shoes appropriate for wading. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver.
DIRECTIONS: From US 220/US 58 north of Martinsville, exit onto VA 57A West/Fairystone Park Highway towards Stanleytown/Bassett. Take the first right onto Process Road (VA 907). At the end of the road, turn north (left) onto The Great Road. The access is on the right.
Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge.