Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cowpasture River at Walton Tract - August 2009

Paddling on the Cowpasture River in Virginia is provided by the state at the Walton Tract, a farm donated to the state for recreational purposes. Located off Route 42 north of Clifton Forge, a 2 mile section of the river along the Walton Tract is legally navigable to the public. Access to the river is available on the south end of the property (see my posting here) and also at the north end which is where I visited today.

The canoe/kayak access on the north end of the Walton Tract is accessible via a small road, along which four-wheel drive with clearance is required. The road is fairly wild and wooly, with very steep, rocky, & rutted sections, and I would not attempt it in a car.

Access to the river itself is via a gravel sandbar. I chose to paddle upstream first, as I usually do, until I encountered the first set of rapids.

The water along the river was very clear, with no hint of silt. The river bottom was visible at any point on the river. In fact, the bottom itself was covered with rounded pebbles to the point that it looked like some type of pavement.

The first set of rapids was about 10 minutes upstream. The rapids themselves represent a one-foot drop in the level of the river, and it was not possible to power through them (although it would be fairly easy to walk over them).

I chose to turn around and paddle back downstream through the next set of downstream rapids. They were pretty tame, and it looked like a simple matter to power back through them on my way back to the put in.

I continued downstream until I encountered the second set of downstream rapids. These appeared to be quite long, so I paddled back upstream, through the set of small rapids I had just come through, to the put in location.

The river access here provides the flatwater paddler with enough water for a 30 minute paddle. For those with a shuttle (4WD), a 2-mile stretch of the river would be available between the north and south access points at the Walton Tract, along a wide meander.

View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.

Carvin Cove - August 2009

Carvin Cove is a large reservoir north of Roanoke, Virginia that forms the public water supply of the city of Roanoke and surrounding areas. The recreation area is open to mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian activities. Boating is also available, but it is restricted to protect the fresh water supply. Boating is currently open to local residents only; there is a $5 fee per person to use the lake, and your boat must be clean & dry and not have been in any other water for at least three weeks prior to visiting the reservoir.

Dual concrete boat ramps are available along with plenty of parking and basic public facilities. I arrived last week to paddle on the reservoir on a cloudy, humid afternoon with the threat of showers and thunderstorms. I chose to bring my 17' Heritage Expedition on this trip, and it is a fast boat and able to cover large distances - an advantage on a lake this size.

After dropping the boats on the water, a friend and I paddled across the lake to explore some of the many coves along the shoreline. A stiff wind had stirred up three to six inch waves on the lake which pushed us quickly across the open water.

My time on the reservoir was limited this trip, so we were able to explore only a handful of coves before it was time to paddle back to the boat dock. As it turned out, the wind had pushed us a fair distance down the lake, so I took advantage of the headwind to get a bit of a workout while paddling back to the ramp.

The weather quickly deteriorated on the return trip as a shower adjacent to the lake grew and began to move in our direction. Not wanting to be a lightning rod on the middle of the water, aluminum paddle and all, I lit the afterburner and managed to get off the lake just as we heard the first clap of thunder. Heavier rain descended upon as just as we were pulling out of the parking area - fortunate timing.

Carvin Cove is a large reservoir, and I plan to visit this location again on a day when I have more time to explore the nether reaches of the lake. View this location in Google Maps by clicking here.