Day 11 - 12: Dam Portages Above Lynchburg

I've got some new beef with dams. After all the fun of running through the rapids at Balcony Falls near Glasgow, things got less fun.  There is a reason very few people navigate down the James River between Glasgow and Lynchburg - seven reasons, in fact.  I, Ryan, the canoe, our paddles, and multiple bags of gear had to portage five of the dams on foot and two with the help of nice people with cars (I think we mentioned Fred's help earlier - thanks!).

First portage without the help of a vehicle - Bedford Power Dam
Now, tell me if I'm out of line here, but when humans put a big barrier across a river, shouldn't they also provide a simple and safe way for other humans with boats (and no vehicle) to get out and back into the river so they can keep going on their merry way? If VDOT put up a long jersey barrier across I-64 without providing a detour...you know how long that would last. I'm not even talking about a nice concrete ramp and a formal walkway - I would be happy with just a few stable steps up the bank or a dirt path that is kept cleared without having to trespass through someone's property or along the railroad.  And in cases where the only put-in after the dam is, say, 1.5 miles downstream, it sure would be nice to get a little lift from those responsible for putting up that infrastructure (ahem, Georgia Pacific paper plant).

As it is, for most of the portages Ryan and I had to scout out the riverbank for a spot flat enough to hoist up the canoe out of the water and then walk around to make sure there was a place to pull the canoe and gear around the dam and back into the river on the downstream side.  Portages came in all varieties:  pulling the canoe across and lowering down boulders (sorry, Fred, we owe you some patch work on that canoe); trampling through mud flats and tall grass; scrambling through woods and poison ivy; and in the case of the paper plant portage at Big Island...waiting until some nice people at the boat landing with a vehicle feel sorry enough for us to give us a lift.

Father and son who had been fishing at boat ramp above Georgia Pacific paper plant. After I walked back from unsuccessfully looking for someone at the plant who might give us a ride around their facility, the fishermen offered us a ride in their van.  They saved us a mile and a half of lugging a canoe and gear!

The fawn that Ryan almost stepped on as he lugged the canoe through a soggy area with tall grass (Coleman Falls dam).

The aftermath of sinking into a mud pit and losing my right sandal (Coleman Falls dam).  I thought it was a goner, but a couple minutes of probing in the mud brought it back from the depths.

Ryan pulling the canoe past the Colman Falls hydroelectric dam.  Thank goodness for the muscle man.

Hello, Holcomb Rock dam.

Yes, you are aptly named, Holcomb Rock dam.

Goodbye, Holcomb Rock dam.


Dam, that was some hard work.

Yours truly,

Laurel

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