If you’ve never floated the Dan River, take advantage of a free guided float this Saturday, Sept. 7.
The Dan River Basin Association is leading a paddle along 6.5 miles of the Dan River. The float begins at 10 a.m. at the boat landing in Milton, North Carolina, and concludes at Leggett’s Bottom, a public access point on U.S. 58 in Halifax County, Virginia.
Great for beginners and experts alike
The DRBA’s First Saturday Outing floats are “a safe way to enjoy the river with a group of people who love the outdoors,” said Wayne Kirkpatrick, an association board member and experienced paddler.
The section of Dan River consists mostly of flat but moving water, which makes it an ideal float for beginners. More advanced paddlers will find plenty to like as well.
“This section of the Dan is very novice friendly, the river is wide, mostly smooth flowing water with very slight rapids,” Kirkpatrick said. “If you are new to paddling, it is a great section to experience an outing on gently moving water.”
This section of river mostly flows through a wild area that provides great opportunities to see animals in the waning days of summer. Look for turtles, herons, ducks, hawks, and songbirds, among others.
The river also runs near VIRginia International Raceway early in the float. You may well hear the rumble of racing from the VIR track. Do you know the story about how VIR, which first opened in 1957, made an epic comeback after it closed in 1974? If not, check out the story, which we posted a few weeks back.
History as seen from the river
The DRBA float also includes a unique perspective on the region’s history. The route gives paddlers a glimpse at some pivotal from the past. This includes a look at the transition from river to rails to roads as the country’s dominant mode of transportation.
After the river flows under the Route 62 Bridge, it continues past the mouth of Country Line Creek. Why “Country Line Creek”? In colonial times, the creek separated the “countries” of North Carolina and Virginia.
Sandy Creek and Wolfe Creek also empty into the Dan River along the route. Sandy Creek’s impressive five-arch stone trestle (not visible from the river) now carries the Ringgold-Sutherlin rail trail over the creek. In the nineteenth century, it carried the Richmond & Danville Railroad, a historically important development that expanded the region’s access to trade.
The Dan River also passes three impressive stone piers from the Milton & Sutherlin Narrow Gauge Railroad, built in 1878 to connect Milton to the Richmond & Danville Railroad.
“In early American history, our rivers were key to community development, serving as our highways,” Kirkpatrick said. “During the 19th century they were replaced by rail lines, such as the Richmond & Danville and the Milton & Sutherlin railroads. Today, our rivers are serving as recreational highways, recapturing some of the past history as integral to community quality of life.”
What to know before you go
This float begins in Caswell County, North Carolina, and then crosses into Virginia. It then weaves back and forth across the Halifax/ Pittsylvania county line. The float later concludes at Leggett’s Bottom, a public takeout developed by the Roanoke River Basin Association and the DRBA using money from Duke Energy.
Participants are to meet at 10 a.m. at the Milton Public Boat Landing on Route 62 south of Danville (GPS 36.5407, -79.2149). For boat rentals and shuttle, contact Three Rivers Outfitters, 336-627-6215, www.3-r-o.com.
Once you arrive at the take-out, use the boat slide alongside steel steps to exit the steep bank. Three Rivers Outfitters will then shuttle paddlers back to the Milton Access.
Participants in the outing should supply boat, paddles, life jacket for each boater, water and lunch or snacks; wear water-shedding synthetic fabric or wool (not cotton or jeans); and come prepared to get wet. .
Afterward, hang out and explore Milton. Caswell County residents Susan Lassiter and Don Leathers suggest checking out its two museums, art gallery and shops. For restaurants, visit Aunt Millie’s Pizza, Subs, and Suds, Milton Tire & Grill for burgers and desserts, and Milton Baking Company for fresh-cooked meals beginning at 5 p.m.