On July 21, 2018, the VC&NS participated in the 7th annual James River Transportation Festival on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This festival, which began in 2012, was conceived of by Peter Hamel, who is the Ridge District interpreter for the Blue Ridge Parkway. His goal is to bring attention to the James River Visitors Center and increase awareness of historical modes of navigation in the area.
Participants this year included Brian Coffield, Bill Trout, Philip de Vos, Roger Nelson and Randy Waycaster.
Randy brought the batteau Slate River, which is the centerpiece of the festival, as he has done for the past six years, The batteau sits in the James River within 100 feet from Battery Creek lock and invites festival visitors to come over, climb aboard and explore. There is also a VC&NS exhibit adjacent to the visitors center, where visitors learn about the Canal Society and transportation in the canal system.
The beauty of the Parkway and the mountains brings people from all over the world who are eager to learn more about the location and history of the area. The James River is the lowest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is a natural passage through the mountains. Prior to being tamed by many dams, the gorge carved out by the river was a formidable obstacle for double dugout canoes and later for batteaux. While the first canal with locks on the James River were built in Richmond, the second canal with locks was built for batteaux to navigate through the Blue Ridge gorge.
Today, the most complete lock on the James River and Kanawha Canal system is located on the other side of the river from the visitors center. A pedestrian bridge crosses the river right under the bridge carrying vehicle traffic on the parkway over the river. The canal towpath hosts part of the railroad, which immediately veers off and goes to higher ground, leaving the lock intact and part of the Blue Ridge parkway, rather than being part of the railroad.
The festival takes place in one of the most beautiful settings, and visitors and participants alike are always taken by the incredible beauty.
The second annual Amherst County Batteau Day was held beside Rucker Landing beside the James River on the Amherst County Side.
The weather was beautiful as I toured the various period craft booths and groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and a nice group of ladies from the Legacy group.
A man played his instruments and sang in front of the James River Association’s Lynchburg office. Dr. Bill Trout and Philip de Vos had the VC&NS booth with the many publications and information on display.
Octavia Starbuck was all smiles as she rode the golf cart to check on things. Mike Rucker and Jeff Taylor put on a skit about the history of the batteaux in Amherst County.
The batteau Lizzy Langley was beside the boat ramp as Dillon Schumacker and many of the crew packed oakum and worked on the boat getting ready for the launch of the JRBF next Saturday from Percival’s Island. The crew gave some public festival attendees a nice ride up the river a ways and back to the boat ramp.
Working up an appetite taking photos I had a really nice BBQ and later some of the kettle popcorn that was cooked on site a little while earlier. I could see the crew of the batteau sitting on the boat so I got them a big bag of the popcorn and told them it was a boat donation.
This years event was nice and I look forward to next year.
Holt Messerly, VCNS Publications
The 4thannual Appomattox Riverfest was held on April 28, 2018 at Appomattox Riverside Park in Dinwiddie County. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR). This event brings together state and local agencies and volunteer groups with an interest in the local ecology and in educating the general public about the environment and history of the area.
The VC&NS was represented by Brian Coffield and Bill Trout, who set up a booth to increase awareness of the VC&NS in general, as well as to talk to festival attendees about the canal that runs through the park.
The festival is always well-attended and has a lot of interesting participants and activities for the entire family. The children especially enjoy being able to see and learn about wild birds and were even allowed to pet a snake or two!
On April 14, 2018, after the VC&NS board of directors held their quarterly meeting in Powhatan, Virginia. The group attended an open house event at the Pump House in on the canal in Richmond. The event was hosted by a group called “Friends of the Pump House”. This group is a new organization that is working to restore the Pump House, a magnificent structure, to its former glory. The event mainly consisted of tours led by Lyn Lanier (also known as “Mr. Pump House”), who is a long time member of the VC&NS. Later in the day there was a reading of selected work from Thomas Jefferson, with a light show in the background.
What is there to see at the Pump House? For one thing, the wood from the canal basin dig is stored there in large wells full of water in the bottom of the Pump House. The VC&NS group taking the tour took the opportunity to remove a rib from the water to examine and take a photo of it. Working our way up to the top, we also saw a grand ballroom which is currently in need of restoration. After the tour, several members of the VC&NS remained to interact with the public showing up for tours in the afternoon, and to help the Friends of the Pump House collect donations for the restoration.