Almost heaven, West Virginia – Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees – Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze
Country Roads…Take Me Home, Country Roads, John Denver (1971)
I was thinking about this song as we floated down the peaceful south fork of the Shenandoah River in northern Virginia. Thanks to our friends, Kim and Mark, who is one of the three “River Keepers” of the Shenandoah River watershed, we had a delightful day on the river! Owen and Oliver were in the canoe and the rest of us were in kayaks. Unfortunately, a migraine headache sidelined Ocean and Nadia stayed at home to take care of here. After a delicious BBQ lunch at Mark’s house, we put the boats in upstream and paddled down back to his house.
The water was refreshing on a hot day. It was so nice to see the boys working together in the canoe all day. They looked like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer! Outdoor adventure is so good for teenagers and gets them off their digital devices and into nature. We all had a blast! We saw many grey herons on the water, the pterodactyl of wetlands. I also saw a mother Common Merganser mother call over her ducklings to get away from me as I approached them in a kayak.
Mark’s knowledge, experience and expertise of the river made it all the more enjoyable. He was talking about fighting algae blooms from agricultural and livestock runoff and pointed out Native American fishing weirs as we flowed over them. The weirs were particularly fascinating as most Native American tribes did not have stone monuments as legacies and so this is one thing that they left behind that you can still see today. They used to drive fish into funnels formed by rocks they placed on the river bed.
The water was not flowing very fast and in mid-summer, the depths ranged from a foot to 15 feet, mostly shallow. It is a perfect river for kids to learn to canoe.