The James River Middle Expedition is the adventure that all high school kids should experience during their summer break. This year, we spent the first couple of days getting over the hurdle of rainy days and wet gear. Overcoming these obstacles was key to bringing the students together and preparing them for the challenges we faced throughout the week as a team. The students were able to enjoy river-side lunches, swimming in the river, and attempting to catch fish, but they spent most of their days paddling their way to the next campsite.

They learned about the science, history, and community that surrounds the middle section of the James, and had the unique opportunity to experience a mode of river transportation from the 1700s, a James River Batteau! This 45-foot long wooden boat brought us down river two of our days on the trip, safely weaving in between rocks and going down ripples thanks to our knowledgeable guides.

The week culminated in Richmond, the end of the Middle James, where the students had the opportunity to go rafting in some of the most challenging rapids that make up the fall line of the James. This really showed off their teamwork and confidence that was developed over the week of being on the Expedition, as well as the friendships that were created along the way.

This week was my first Expedition as a staff member of the James River Association, and I feel as though I learned as much as the students did throughout this trip. Having an experience like this not only builds character but also helps you grow as a person. As an Environmental Educator, one of my primary goals is to introduce students to a positive experience on the river in order to create a sense of belonging and lifelong appreciation of our wild spaces. Nothing does this better than the James River Expedition.

Special thanks to Woodie Walker, Randy Waycaster, Riverside Outfitters and the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay for their continued support of the Expedition program. This trip finishes another season of life-changing trips on our beloved river. Until next year!

July, 22 2019

Today we paddled 18 miles from James River State Park to Flower Camp. The trek was long but rewarding. We saw two Bald Eagles, an otter, a Great Blue Heron, and lots of fish. We discovered a rope swing and had a lot of fun swinging and swimming. A couple of us floated through a riffle while we stopped for lunch. Our skipping rock competition is going strong with our winner being Ben at 16 skips. When we made it back we set up camp in a storm and figured out what made good oatmeal. In the storm, Woodie’s empty tent flew away. While the storm raged we were safe in our tents playing cards. Then when the storm calmed we ate Mac and Cheese. That night we had a soggy sleep. Quote of the day: “Slap it down with confidence.”

– Alexis 

July, 23 2019

We woke up to find that instead of the expected 21 miles we only had to paddle 3. We got on the river about 11:00 after flipping all the canoes because of the night’s rain. It continued until about 12 when we stopped at an island to eat and to wait for Jacob. We had varying levels of success in our rain gear. While we were on the island, we listened to Charles speak about the James River Association and what its mission is and the history of the James. Afterward, we realized Jacob still had not arrived, so we played games while Charles and Connor fished. Ben and Turner kept everyone laughing by throwing rocks and mud on the bridge. Matt looked for fossils and found one! Then, we paddled across the river to go to our campsite at Howardsville, a big open green field was our home for the night. We laid all of our tents out to dry and finally saw the sun. Matt, Rachel, Turner, and Alexis paddled to some rocks to gather for Matt’s classroom. Everyone else went fishing and swimming. Finally, we all gathered around  5:00 to talk and set up the tents. All of us kids engaged in a fierce game of UNO (which Bella won) and Bex and Rose climbed a pine. Afterward, Charles gathered us for a game of “Alaskan Baseball”. Rebekah and Bella made burgers and hot dogs and played a game of ultimate frisbee with Caleigh, Aaron, and Mara who joined the Expedition.  Quote of the day “Let me test the turbidity of your canoe”

– Turner

July, 24 2019

Today we woke up to Charles banging pans. We got some bagels and headed out for our 11 mile trip. A few miles down we stopped at jump rock and did some sick flips (honorable mention: Ben’s back flip). We stopped at Rock Island to eat PB&J’s for lunch. We did some fishing and skipped rocks awhile. Erika almost took Turner’s eye out with a fishing rod. When we got to our campsite we laid out our gear and admired how we had showers. For dinner we had pizza and it was good. We walked into town and got ice cream at a Chinese place. We visited the new James River Association Scottsville office and spoke with Anne Marie about the river and some of its threats. Quote of the day: “Fishing is DUMB!!”- Jacob
– Ben and Bex

July, 24 2019

Today we went from Scottsville to Seven Islands (about 11 miles) on a Batteau. We experiences dozens of rapids that the crew of the Batteau masterfully steered through. Along the way we stopped at the Hardware River that had water so shallow we had to walk up to the bridge. The bridge was an aqueduct made in 1838 and look pretty swell. Turner, Charles, and Bella caught a fish! Twajuon even learned how to fish! Even though other people didn’t catch fish, all it takes to be a fisher is trying. We made it to the campsite and set up tents and made our last dinner. For dessert, we had smores and peach cobbler made by Randy, the Batteauman. We can’t wait to go home but it’s been a fun week filled with adventure and trying new things. Quote of the day: “Let’s go golfing”- Mara

– Twajuon and Erika