Stand Up Paddleboarding on the New River in Giles County, Virginia
The weather was overcast as we heading out on our adventure down this 6 mile section of the New River from Eggleston to Pembroke in beautiful Giles County, this area is quickly becoming an recreation mecca, with the New River and the nearby National Forest, recreation abounds in this part of Southwest Virginia. This would be my first real Stand Up session in a river setting. We did do a brief paddle on a small rapid on the Greenbrier River during last September’s Soggy Bottom Paddleboard Tour, but today would be 6 miles on the New, with a few class 1 and 2 rapids.
Today I would be joined with a group of special friends from the neighborhood where my dad lives on nearby Claytor Lake, these friends are real special since they each played an important role in the support and care of my parents, during my mom’s recent battle with cancer, sadly she lost that battle on June 21st, as part of the healing process we had planned this trip for mid July.
We launched at Eggleston just up from the Eggleston road bridge. This trip has easy launch and take out sites and the shuttle from the to points is less than 10 minutes. If you are in a solo vehicle, Tangent Outfitters offers shuttle service for an reasonable charge, and they also rent kayaks and canoes for the trip if you are not up for the paddleboard adventure.
At the launch site we were joined by a nice group of young adventurous kids from the town of Blacksburg recreation department, they were on a kayak trip today as part of an adventure day camp program; it was great to see these kids outside and enjoying the outdoors. The river was up slightly and the flow was good, the water was fairly clear and around 72. We had 5 single kayaks, double kayak and a paddle boarder in our group, we heading out down the river, the first section of the river before the bridge is mostly flat water with the exception of a couple ripples, the first rapid a small class 1 is below the bridge.
In the first miles of the river I found myself experimenting with stance and feet placement, I found myself using the basic stance from flat water riding, worked well on river riding, knees bent slightly, back straight, feet about shoulder width apart and I did position my feet a couple inches back on the board from my normal flat water stance. The first ripples and the current were not much different from riding a paddleboard on a busy flat water lake. After the first mile or so the river is flat for a while and then the first of various sections of the river with the high rock formations (aka Palisades) becomes visible, this is the reason this section of river is some popular, the beauty of the river and the reflections of the high rock formations, make this a must do section of river.
The next section of the river has another couple small rapids; this section had a nice rapid, a little longer, multiple routes and flow coming in different directions, this was a nice progress from the earlier ripples. The end of this rapid was a little tricky but I was still standing and dry. We paddled another mile or so and pulled off to the side to experience a nice spring (I think this is Eggleston Spring) to the left of the river, the water was gin clear and about 50 degrees, a nice place to cool off on a hot Virginia day, after a brief stop and snack we headed out. The next section of the river is flat which is great for the paddle boarder, a little rest from being on your toes in the rapids.
The Stride inflatable board works great in a river setting, a couple pointers for river paddleboarding, over inflate the board slightly, in the cooler water the board will soften slightly, wear good river shoes, knee pads and helmet recommended, and of course comfortable fitting paddling PFD. This is the first section of the trip with multiple Palisades, a nice red Caboose sets to the left, which makes from a nice river camp along the river with the Palisades as a back drop, the beauty on this section of the river, is special.
After about a mile the river starts to develop some more rapids, then flat again and then a long section of multiple Palisades, the river then start to narrow slightly and the biggest rapid of the trip and longest rapid of the trips comes into view, as we paddle along this section of river, at the same time we spot a beautiful bald eagle off to the right of the river, since I was on the paddleboard I paddled to the right to get closer view of the eagle, joining the eagle was three grey herrings. As I approached closer each of the herring took flight, leaving the eagle perched on a limb overhanging the river, when I was about 50 feet away the eagle took flight across the river and directly over our group of kayakers, what a sight, this was some of the groups first site of an eagle in the wild. As all this was going on the water was becoming swifter and most difficult to navigate. We all got caught up in the eagle sighting and somewhat forgot about the moving water. The best route was on the left side of the river, so I paddled across the river which is fairly easy with a paddleboard, the rapid was getting more difficult to navigate with rocks to the center and most water going along this part of the river, most of the kayaks where in this section so I paddled more to the left, things were going go until I came to almost a complete stop when the fins hit a rock, the water was a little low for the far left route, so to play it safe, I kneeled down and paddled out the rest of the rapid.
After a little more time on the river I would feel comfortable paddling this section of the rapid, I would rather enjoy the trip than risk it and end of getting banged up and missing a few days on the water. After this last rapid you enter what is called the Pembroke Pond about a mile and half of flat water before you exit the river at the launch in Pembroke. This trip is great for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding; it is fairly easy and forgiving for the first time paddlers under the right conditions. We had a great trip and we will be back again later in the summer or early fall. My first river paddleboard trip was great and I was still dry.
As a fitting end to this trip, a visit to this section of river, one can not miss the fairly new restaurant in downtown Eggleston, that bears the name that makes this river trip special “The Palisades”, know for great food, great service and good times, this place will not disappoint. My personal favorites are the Chipotle Ribeye steak and finish it off with the Pomegranate Chip Homemade Ice Cream for dessert. Until next time, keep paddling and we see you in September when version 2.0 of the Soggy Bottom Paddleboard Tour heads south into NC, SC and GA for a tour of the mountain lakes of this region before heading back up I-81 for a tour of the valley lakes of TN and Southwest Virginia.
Local Outfitters: Tangent Outfitters 540.626.4567 newrivertrail.com
Local Fare: The Palisades 540.626.2828 thepalisadesrestuarant.com
Local Lodging: Inn at Riverbend 540.921.5211 innatriverbend.com
Local Knowledge: Giles County 540.921.2525 gilescounty.org