Consisting of three rivers and two lakes spanning Halifax and Mecklenburg counties, the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway offers a paddling experience unlike anywhere else in the country. Unspoiled terrain and interesting wildlife provide a feeling of wilderness, yet the Blueway is a short drive from major metro areas and has dozens of easy access points. Whether you’re looking for a couple hours on the lake with your family, or a more challenging three-day river trek, the Blueway delivers.
The Blueway’s three rivers — the Dan, the Staunton (or Roanoke) and the Banister — combine for more than 100 miles of navigable water. Of that, over 80 miles have been designated as Virginia Scenic River across all three of these rivers. Some sections of the Blueway’s rivers pass through historic waterfront towns, but far more is completely undeveloped, allowing you to paddle for miles and see more osprey or bald eagles than other humans. Fishing along the rivers is exceptional, with the Staunton River being known as one of the best spots for inland striper fishing on the East Coast. Since much of the land is public, you can pull over your canoe or kayak and enjoy a break or leisurely picnic lunch along much of the Blueway.
At some places on the Blueway, you feel a million miles away, yet great food, accommodations and other interesting sites are close by when you want them. In South Boston, restaurants, supplies and even a unique arts venue are all within walking distance of the Blueway.
Kerr Lake (known locally as Buggs Island Lake) and Lake Gaston make up the flat-water portion of the Blueway. The lakes combine for more than 1,200 miles of shoreline, much of which is public and undeveloped on the Virginia side. Boat ramps and access points are plentiful, allowing you to enjoy the lakes for quick trips or longer excursions. Kerr Lake, in particular, is known for its excellent fishing, with a world record 143-pound blue catfish caught in its waters in 2011. For anglers looking for a more unique experience, on the western end of Kerr Lake is the only bridge-mounted nighttime fishing light system in the United States, so you can start earlier and fish later. The bridge is located near the charming lakefront town of Clarksville, where paddlers can head to shore and stroll through town for great food or a craft beer. All told, both Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston make the Blueway even more special than the typical river-only blueways you might be used to.
Bird and Wildlife Viewing
No matter which stretch of the Blueway you choose to explore, keep your eyes open and your camera ready for a chance to see a wide array birds and animals. It’s common to see nesting bald eagles, osprey and hawks. It’s not uncommon to spot egrets and herons along the shoreline. Observant birdwatchers may also spot dozens of other species of colorful birds. The forests along the Blueway are home to lots of native animals including deer, fox, and occasionally bear.