Mill Dog Creek
In North Carolina, more than twenty-six miles of the New River has been declared Wild and Scenic by both the state and federal governments. This is where Dog Creek joins the New, where the Wild and Scenic section begins
The National Committee for the New River is floating from Boone, NC to Gauley Bridge, W.Va., where the New joins the Gauley to form the Kanawha. Tim Thornton is paddling along and dropping a line whenever he can find a wireless connection. Thornton's work on the river is made possible in part by a grant from The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge.
The first time I went through Molly Osborne’s Shoals, I was in the front of a canoe and George Santucci was in the back. I was ballast with a paddle. George knew what he was doing.
Today I went through Molly Osborne’s Shoals again, this time in a little yellow cork of a kayak not even I have been able to flip or dump yet. Santucci, executive director of the National Committee for the New River, was back in a tandem canoe. This time his partner was Lynn Crump. Crump is obviously a much more accomplished paddler than I, but the boat ride wasn’t the main purpose for her being in the river.
The NCNR is beginning the second week of its second annual New River Expedition. The trip began in Boone, N.C., on July 24. It’ll end just past the middle of August in Gauley Bridge, W.Va. That’s where the Gauley meets the New and they create the Kanawha. Last year, the trip covered just about every inch of the river. This year, some sections are getting skipped – the arduous portages around Appalachian Power’s Buck and Byllesby dams, for instance. So the actual paddle miles have been reduced to only 230 or so. Still, that’s a nice little float. And Crump will be along on the Virginia sections, taking notes that will help determine whether any portion of the New is fit for inclusion in the commonwealth’s list of scenic rivers. The New is one of two watersheds in Virginia without any officially scenic sections.
Crump sometimes runs into resistance from local governments and landowners who don’t want the state government telling them what they can do with their land – so they don’t want any state designation of their river. The thing is, Crump told me after a morning of paddling in a steady rain, state designation doesn’t tell anyone what they can or can’t do, with one exception. No dam can be built on a Virginia Scenic River unless the General Assembly approves it. So all the designation does, really, is make it more likely that a Scenic River will remain a river. That doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
(For a schedule of the 2010 New River Expedition and to see how you can join for a day or more, go to ncnr.org.)
Tim Thornton is also blogging at http://newriverexpedition.wordpress.com.