Paddle and row the rivers and lakes
“West Virginia has beautiful rivers, and I’ve got grandparents on both sides who died of heart disease, so I’m determined not to get it,” Brent Samples of Charleston said. Among other things, he hits West Virginia rivers with his kayak whenever he can.
Samples is not alone in his enthusiasm for paddling. West Virginia has some of the best paddling in the East, and it’s great exercise. In June 2013, when the nonprofit Coal River Group hosted a party, the Tour de Coal, 600 paddlers showed up with more than 400 kayaks and canoes.
The Outdoor Industry Foundation tracks the popularity of bicycling, hiking, skiing, kayaking and 18 other recreational activities. According to their numbers, kayaking has more than doubled in popularity since 1998, particularly among young people.
Sculling and rowing are still rare in West Virginia, though it’s great exercise, maybe because it’s more expensive.
But any community that develops paddling – canoeing and kayaking – is helping residents stay fit and also promoting an economic development tool.
Do you live near a river people can paddle? Here are ways to make it easier for them to do that:
- Start a group or club. Pull together people in your community who like to paddle or want to see it happen.
- Go on some organized trips and get to know other paddlers: The West Virginia Wildwater Association, www.wvwa.net , based in Charleston, open to anybody, organizes paddling trips and sponsors beginner workshops and kayak rolling lessons in the Charleston area. The website often offers impromptu paddling trips anybody can join.
- Check your river access points. Can people get into the river easily to launch and take out their boats? See the river access page.
- Join some larger groups that can help you. Here is a list: http://www.paddling.net/associations.html
- Take lessons if you need them: Type “paddling lessons” and “West Virginia” into a search engine. Whitewater paddling is dangerous. Lessons are recommended, whether commercial or from an experienced friend. If you’re promoting it, you need to be hip to the process.
- Visit people who have a paddling club:
- The West Virginia Wildwater Association, http://www.wvwa.net, offers clinics and trips. They will help you get started with canoeing, kayaking, rafts, whatever.
- Dbl Z! Whitewater Club, Fayetteville, firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.facebook.com/DblzWhitewaterClub
- WVU Whitewater Club, www.wvuwhitewaterclub.org, Morgantown
- Paddling stores are great places to find out what’s happening. Type “paddling shops West Virginia” into a search engine for information on shops from Fayetteville to Shepherdstown.
- Identify places to paddle in your area:
- Check out this fabulous map of all trails in West Virginia, on land and water, for hiking, biking and paddling. http://mapwv.gov/trails. The map is evolving. More routes and trails are continuously being added. So if your favorite water trail is not listed – or if you create a new trail – let them know!
- The Web site, www.paddling.net, has a “Paddling in West Virginia” page: http://www.paddling.net/places/WV with firsthand accounts of the trips.
- Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to West Virginia, by a variety of authors: http://www.amazon.com/Canoeing-Kayaking-Guide-West-Virginia/dp/0897325451 The updated classic guide.
- Type canoeing, kayaking, and West Virginia into a search engine = pages of entries.
- Is there a concern about the quality of the water in your river? Contact the Department of Environmental Protection and get started toward a cleanup:
- Stream partners: Support for water quality projects: The DEP can give watershed groups $5,000 to get started: http://www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/getinvolved/WSA_Support/Pages/StreamPartners.aspx
- Here’s a map and list of watershed associations: http://www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/getinvolved/WSA_Support/Documents/Active_Watershed_Associations_Jan_2008.pdf
- Talk with people who have formed nonprofits that organize events and advocate for the river. These three West Virginia nonprofit groups dedicated to improvement of rivers and greater recreation use.
- Friends of the Cheat: http://www.cheat.org
- Here’s a public radio story about the way Friends of the Cheat helped bring back the fish in the river: http://www.npr.org/2013/07/22/204580876/fish-return-to-a-mining-county-river
- Friends of the Cheat: http://www.cheat.org
- The Coal River Group (CRG) : http://www.coalrivergroup.com . After attaining water trail status, the group has created 20 access points on the river, with an informational kiosk at each one.
- Friends of the Cacapon River: www.cacaponriver.org
- Friends of Deckers Creek: http://www.deckerscreek.org
- The DEP breaks the state into four regions, with four basin coordinators. The job of the basin coordinator is to work with the watershed groups and help them achieve their goals. Find out who your basin coordinator is.
- Inventory spots where the public has access to the river in your area. If you need more, plan ways to get more. See river access. Here is a list of river access points from the Department of Natural Resources: http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/public_access.asp
- If you form a club, you could set up a facebook page to let people know what’s happening. Here are examples:
- Kayak WV: https://www.facebook.com/groups/57059852648/10151721089482649/?notif_t=group_comment
- Canoe West Virginia: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canoe-West-Virginia/270013413037120
- Look at the West Virginia page on the American Trails Web site. Scroll down to water trails: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/statetrails/WVstate.html
- Encourage your nearby state park to offer paddling lessons and trips. They have a model in North Bend State Park: http://www.northbendsp.com
- A long-range goal: Get your river designated a river trail: Read about the way the Elk, Cacapon, Cheat and Coal rivers have been designated as official water trails, which makes it possible to apply for federal money. http://www.nps.gov/ncrc/programs/rtca/whatwedo/projects/WV.pdf
Rowing and Sculling
Rowing/sculling isn’t widespread in West Virginia, but it’s great exercise, alone or in a group. As many as eight people can row or scull in a shell.
The sport provides low-impact, full-body exercise, and West Virginia’s lakes and calm rivers are ideally set up for team or individual rowing, but the boats are expensive, and the sport is rare.
People can join sculling/rowing clubs in Parkersburg, Morgantown and Charleston. They can also go for an old-fashioned rowboat.
Want to get sculling or rowing started in/near your community?
- Visit a sculling group.
Also see these related Try This pages: