Three weekends canoe camping in one month. For a workingman, things couldnt get any better. Well maybe they could. Wayne and Lynda Charles have been trying to get us to go on a camping trip over the Thanksgiving weekend for over three years and we decided to take them up on the offer. The trip this past weekend was on the Meherrin River from Emporia, VA down to North Carolina with a take out at Branch Bridge Rd (Northhampton Co Rd 1339) East of Margarettsville. NC. Paddlers on this trip were Myron & Dorcus Whitley and dog Isaac, Wayne & Lynda, Andy & Christie Kunkle and dog Tony, and Sandy and I.
We met on Friday morning at 0930, the day after Thanksgiving, at Meherrin River Park, in Emporia, VA. It was a nice sunny day but with chilly wind. The put in is in town at the park with a boat ramp. Water level today was near 14 ft with almost 3000 cfs. and very high and moving fast. After unloading the gear, I needed help getting my truck unstuck from the mud; we headed off for the shuttle. It seemed like a long shuttle, I didnt get the mileage but by time Christie shuttled us back, we were finally on the river at 1130. After about 2.3 miles, we stopped for lunch at 1215. We encountered our first logjam at 4.5 miles, however with Wayne using his trustee saw and cutting off the end of a log, we were able to make it through. We were hoping this would be the last logjam as it was all the way across the river. Boy, were we wrong because after 9.2 miles, we encountered the mother of all logjams. It was about 50 feet wide all the way across the river and almost as long. There was no way to cut through this. We ended up doing a 25-minute portage through the woods with everyone helping on each canoe loaded with gear. Finally at 4:30pm we traveled a total 9.8 miles, we made camp. After the tents were pitched and firewood gathered, we sat around with hors doveres of crackers, salami, and salsa cheese. We started the charcoal and grilled steaks and chicken and then the rest of the night we sat around the campfire exchanging jokes and tall tales.
Saturday morning we awoke to cloudy skies, frost on the tents, and ice in the coffee pot. The temperature was predicted to get down to 30 and it felt like it. Sandy and I had corned beef hash for breakfast with eggs and the others had everything from omelets, eggs burritos, and bacon eggs and hash brown potatoes. We left camp at 0935. We paddled a total of 17 miles (7.2 since breaking camp) before we stopped for lunch. We started looking for a campsite earlier but decided to go on to the VA Hwy 730 Bridge at 3:42 pm. Andy and Christie decided to take out at this bridge as Christie was having back problems. Andy said he would hitch hike back to Emporia to get his car. We felt bad they were leaving us, but we had to push on to find a campsite before dark. We found a high spot on river left and everyone got out. As soon as Isaac got out his keen nose caught the scent of a deer and off he went into the wood unheeding the call of his master. We had seen hunters all day and heard dogs and saw many deer, and Isaac probably thought he was missing some part of his life by not being a hunting dog.
Wayne, Lynda, Sandy and I said we would go on down river to find another campsite as this one had too many briars, and as soon as they found Isaac they could join us. As we headed down the river, we could hear Myron and Dorcus calling Isaac. We finally made camp about 20 minutes down from where we left the dog callers. It was almost dark, 4:55 pm, and we had canoed a total of 27.3 miles since the put in. Myron called Wayne on the walkie-talkie and said they finally got Isaac but it was too dark so they would camp by themselves that night and joins us for breakfast in the morning. That night Lynda fixed the hors doveres of crackers and cream cheese before grilling sausage and pork chops. With our grilled sausage, Sandy and I had sautd onions and peppers and garlic potatoes. That night we pitched a tarp, and none too soon, as the rains came and lasted all night, although it was warmer than the previous night.
The next morning before we started breakfast, Myron and Dorcus came paddling up to join us for breakfast. We did not hear the end of it from Myron, about leaving them by themselves. Which probably wasnt the best move and we vowed not to do it again. After breakfast, Dorcus baked some sweet rolls with icing to go with the coffee.
Everyone packed up and we left camp at 0930. We crossed under a railroad bridge at 1100, total 32.4 miles, and then under VA Hwy 186 Bridge. This bridge divides NC from VA. After going a total of 35.5 miles we stopped for lunch at noon. This time Dorcus tied Isaac to the boat painter. Wayne speculated that we had another 5 miles to go but wasnt sure. At lunch we could walk up the bluff and see a big cornfield, which will come into play later. We left lunch and we rounded a bend. Sandy said there were some cars on the right, and when I said this is the take out she was relieved. This was her first two-night canoe camp trip and although she enjoyed it she was ready to get off the river. The take out at Branch Bridge Road as a total of 35.9 miles and only nine minutes from our lunch site. When we got to the top where the cars were parked we could see the cornfield and if we walked a few feet to see around the trees we could have probably seen the cars.
We saw more deer on this trip than almost all the other trips I have been on, to include one big buck and other smaller bucks, does, and fawns. We also saw many wild turkeys, hawks, and other bird life. The last night we also had an opossum scrambling up a tree in our campsite.
Sandy said, it was like being in another world. It was, like going back in time living the simpler life. As Mike Hurley wrote in his new book Letters from the Woods, The beauty of a canoe lies not in its versatility but in its singular aptitude to do one thing well and unfailingly, with elegance and grace. Things could not get any better!
Unknown but there are plenty of motels and restaurants in the area.
Four tandem canoes, Old Town Camper, Old Town Tripper, Swift, and Wenonah
From NC take I-95, to exit 8 in Virginia, follow US 301 Highway North into Emporia, VA, cross Meherrin River and landing is immediately on right.
DeLorme Atlas of NC and VA, Virginia Whitewater (although this is flatwater)
USGS Gauging Station in Emporia is on USGS Water Gauge Site on internet. We paddled at 14 ft dropping to 10 ft.