The crew of the Marshall Expedition are all native sons of the James River. We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to put the spotlight on our Nation’s founding river, as well as the other amazing Appalachian Rivers we will explore. All of us owe a great deal to the James River Batteau Festival, without which the James River Batteau would very likely have remained a forgotten relic of a the past. The eight-day, 120-mile festival features over a dozen batteaux and hundreds of canoers and kayakers each year, making the historic trip from Lynchburg to Richmond. This unique event provides participants an opportunity to revel in both the critical role of riparian transit in Virginia’s history and the pleasure of traveling down the beautiful James.
Many people beyond the full time crew are helping to make this project a reality. Tom Moore and Ralph Smith of the Anthony Rucker generously lent equipment and space. Chip Coleman of Rocky Creek Wildfire is guiding us in construction of the tapered boat, and Mason Basten of Grace of the James has contributed much of his time. Holt Messerly, a trustee of the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society has been of great assistance in setting up the blog.
Being outside, engaging with God’s creation, is one the greatest joys in my life. Having grown up in Lynchburg, VA on the banks of the James, I have had a passion for the river for as long as I can remember. My love of rivers has led me to paddle everywhere from Nelson County creeks to the Grand Canyon. Four years ago, with no prior experience or knowledge and no particular reason other than a love of being on the water, Sebastian Backstrom and I decided to build a batteau to participate in the JRBF. With the eager assistance of JRBF veterans, particularly Mason Basten, Debbie was born. We have since enjoyed three festivals and several off-season trips. Since graduating from The University of Virginia with a B.A. in History in May of 2011, I have thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, cooked at Blue Mountain Brewery and planed the upcoming expedition. It is my hope that along with highlighting the historic and ecological value of our rivers, this expedition will bring greater public attention to the amazing event that is the JRBF.
From a very young age I have loved exploring the outdoors. Growing up I reveled in various Appalachian streams, rivers and caves in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. I was in the Boy Scouts of America for many of these adventures and eventually attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Shortly after high school I spent time in Europe exploring natural wonders such as crossing the Artic Circle in Finland, sailing the English Channel, rock climbing in the Fountanblue forest in France and skiing the longest black diamond ski run in the world in the French Alps. Since then I have been an employee at the James River Float Company, studied engineering at Central Virginia Community College, volunteered as a wrestling coach and I plan to join the Navy as a nuclear technician. Three years ago I was presented with the opportunity to help construct and help crew a batteau for the James River Batteau Festival, and have been on the Columbia Drifter ever since. This expedition is the most ambitious I have been a part of, and I am truly proud to be involved.
Build a batteau in two months? And then head up river from Richmond on that batteau for two months? Who could say no? I’m glad I didn’t. At 19 this is the opportunity of a lifetime. My parents always pushed, sometime quite literally, my brothers, sisters and I to be outside and were very influential in my path from Cub Scouts to Eagle Scout. My love for the outdoors stayed with me as my family moved to France and Finland where I was exposed to many different cultures and the study of Environmental Science, the degree which I am currently pursuing. The summer I returned to Lynchburg I was able to be part of two amazing river adventures. I participated in the James River Batteau Festival as a crew-member on Debbie. The day after I left the Batteau Festival, I joined the James River Association to be part of the James River Expedition. With four teachers, two JRA staff and eleven other students we paddled the entire length of the James River. This trip took 28 days and we traveled more than 350 miles by way of canoe, batteau and whitewater rafts. It was on this trip that I began to appreciate the historic and ecological treasures that are our waterways. This passion for the outdoors, the environment and the untold history of the James River Batteau is the my motivation for being a part of this journey. I hope through our travels we will be able to draw public attention to preserving the history and protecting the ecology of these waters that were crucial in the founding of our Nation
Growing up in Richmond, I spent a great deal of time exploring and enjoying the James River. My passion for the outdoors led me to study environmental science at UVA until May of 2011. While in school, I focused on ecology and natural resources, mainly through research on fresh water quality, work on developing a Chesapeake Bay health modelling game, and assisting on several ongoing studies in Canaan Valley, WV. My outdoor escapades have led me to Alaska’s Wrangell mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Peruvian Andes, the Rockies, the White Mountains, and many of the wild places through Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. I have spent many hours on central Virginia’s rivers- whether on a homemade raft, the Bennie Goode (may she rest in peace); on a batteau, Debbie; or with my beloved, beat up aluminum canoe, the Bennie Goode II, which lives in Charlottesville.
I’m not a river-boating guru and not a scholar of the 1800′s, but I am looking forward to becoming one over the next couple months. I do, however, share my crew and captain’s love for adventuring in the outdoors and on the water. In high school that meant ocean sailing on Hobie 16′s and skipping school to spend time on the James near Richmond (fishing, cliff-jumping, train-hopping, idling frivolously). In college that meant working on an organic farm in southern Spain, a disastrous solo-trek into the mountains of Morocco, and a thru-hike of the AT. Now, it means the Marshall Expedition, where I’ll be making sure to break my back helping Shaw get his wonder-batteau over the Alleghenies and down to the Promised Land.
Kevin Ferrel is a Lynchburg native whose life has revolved around the water from a very young age. Learning to paddle with the Blue Ridge River Runners early in life, Kevin has been a whitewater kayaker for years. Kevin has worked the rear sweep on the Grace of the James for the last four years and for the last ten years has made a living as a commercial fisherman in the Bering Sea. Along with Kevin’s experience comes a great appreciation for safety on the water which will serve the crew of the Marshall Expedition well in the coming months.