Paddle practically any stretch of the three rivers and two lakes that make up the blueway and you’ll understand why the word wild is part of the name — Southern Virginia Wild Blueway. The blueway’s three rivers — the Banister, Staunton and Dan rivers — combine for 100 miles of navigable waters, 80 miles of which are designated as Virginia Scenic River. The rivers flow near towns and under roadways, but are comprised of mostly undeveloped shoreline. That means paddlers can enjoy the serenity of a wilderness experience right in the heart of southern Virginia.
It’s not uncommon to see more bald eagles than people in some places. The entire blueway is a bird and wildlife viewing delight. In addition to eagles, observant viewers can spot hawks, herons, egrets and possibly dozens of other colorful birds. On shore, paddlers can watch for deer, fox, otters and occasionally bear. Keep your camera handy.
At Staunton River State Park, the river flows into Kerr Lake, known locally as Buggs Island Lake. It’s the largest lake in Virginia and offers paddlers a totally different experience from paddling along a river. The open waters provide beautiful scenery. The perimeter is dotted with protected Wildlife Management Areas, which means hugging the shoreline and exploring the coves offers just as much bird and wildlife viewing as you’ll find on a secluded stretch of river.
There are plenty of options for camping, including some waterfront sites or at least sites with water views. Two outstanding Virginia State Parks are along the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway — Staunton River State Park and Occoneechee State Park. Both offer tent and RV sites as well as cabins for rent. In addition to the state parks, there are several campgrounds on Kerr Lake that are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
For those who wish to spend their days exploring the wild part of the blueway but prefer more comfortable overnight accommodations, don’t worry there are great places to stay in both Halifax and Mecklenburg counties. Choices include a beautiful resort in South Boston, charming B&B Inns, traditional hotels and private rentals. Southern Virginia is known for its genuine hospitality, and that includes serving some awesome food. Towns like South Boston, Halifax, Clarksville, Boydton and South Hill have great locally-owned restaurants to sample. After a day of paddling, you deserve a great meal and a beverage. Wineries, craft breweries and a historic distillery are a great way to end a perfect day.
When you wake up refreshed and ready for another day of adventure, you’ll be happy to know you have plenty of options. You can explore a different river or lake. For a change of pace from canoeing and kayaking, you can try stand-up paddleboarding. It may take a little while to find your balance, but it just might become your next favorite hobby. There are also plenty of trails to hike at the parks and wildlife management areas. Another popular option is biking the Tobacco Heritage Trail. The bottom line is, the Southern Virginia Wild Blueway is one of many great outdoor adventures in Halifax and Mecklenburg counties.
Learn about the blueway and plan your getaway at sovawildblueway.com.
Cover photo by Lynne Goodwin