I have to admit, when I was growing up, my family wasn’t really what you would call “outdoorsy.” We didn’t hike, camp, or spend much time out away from civilization. (Maybe it was our lack of outdoor adventure that has me craving it as an adult!) But that being said about my family, one time we did raft down the New River, and for some reason that trip made a big impact on me. I’ve always wanted to do something similar with my own kids, but was waiting until I felt like they were old enough to really enjoy it, and maybe even help paddle.
Now at ages 7 and 10, I decided they were old enough. Or maybe I was just tired of waiting! And what better place for a river adventure than the Dan River? We live close to the part of the Dan that flows through Stokes County, and the river itself is magnificent. Wide, calm, full of wildlife, and like the slogan says, “Clean and Clear!” The guys at the Dan River Company got us outfitted with our canoe and life jackets, and after a short drive up a windy road in their shuttle van, we were on the water.
Just like I remembered from my own family’s trip years ago, the bickering started pretty much right when we hit the river.
“I want to paddle first.”
“But you don’t know how, I learned at camp!”
“I do know how, I’ll show you.”
Partly because I was afraid we might tip over, but also because I just needed some quiet, I took the paddle away from the kids and told them we were going to play a game instead. Their new job was to keep track of any animals they saw, insects included. And of course, to see the most animals, you have to be quiet. Being down a paddle wasn’t a problem either. With the rains we’ve had recently, the river was flowing at a pretty good pace, so paddling wasn’t really necessary except for a little mild steering. Besides, the way the kids were going, their paddling was doing more harm than good!
I had expected to see the usual — dragonflies, squirrels in the woods along the side of the river and maybe even a deer, if we were lucky. But our game took an exciting turn when we happened across a beaver family playing in the cool water of the Dan River. It was better than a view at the zoo! Of course, our show didn’t last long, as they scuttled back into the water at the sight of the canoe, but that beaver family made a lasting impression on my own family.
The wildlife isn’t the only thing impressive about a paddle down the Dan River. The views themselves are absolutely spectacular. Rock outcroppings tower above you, and just when you think you’ve seen one of the most amazing views of your life, you go around a bend and the next outcropping takes your breath away. If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, this is it. In our entire six miles on the river, we only saw a total of 13 houses, and those were all together in one clump. Before I knew it, we were back at the Dan River Company access, and Dave Hoskins, the owner of this operation, was there ready to help us get out. My little one, who had been a bit reluctant to brave the river at first, proclaimed loudly as he climbed out of the canoe, “I want to go again!” My sentiments exactly.
If you want to have your own adventure on the Dan, now is a great time to do it. There are still plenty of days of warm weather ahead of us, and the summer traffic has eased up a bit, making it a perfect escape from reality. Make plans now!
Dan River Company
Shuttle service runs through Nov. 1. Here you can rent canoes and kayaks, and choose from a 6 mile or 13 mile run.
Dan River Tubing
Tube 30 minutes to all day.