Three James River Expedition trips are offered during the summer as three different week-long experiences for a total of 30 students and 3 teachers.  With a focus on nature and being outdoors, students are “unplugged” for the week and are not permitted to bring cell phones or any other electronics. Students travel by canoe with scheduled stops for educational sessions such as water quality testing, nature walks or conservation talks, times for team building activities, tours of local sites, and/or outdoor recreation options such as swimming and rafting. Each evening students set-up camp, perform their assigned camp roles (given the first day of the week), prepare and gather for a communal dinner, and attend the evening events which typically include a program component with a guest speaker, along with time for team camaraderie and fun around the campfire. Each student spends approx. 120 hours on the James!

From 2019 Upper James River Expedition student, Sean McAndrew

“I knew from the start that the James River Expedition was a unique opportunity. Everything about it, from visiting “River Stakeholders” to touring Natural Bridge and a wastewater treatment plant sounded exciting. And despite what my parents may say about my ability to live without my phone, I was excited at the prospect of being able to unplug for a week in one of the most beautiful places on the East coast.

Reading the itinerary couldn’t have prepared me for everything that happened on the trip; from the friendships, I forged to the places I saw and the things I did. I came back from the trip with a changed mindset. I wanted to make a concerted effort to do more – whether that meant procrastinating less or saying yes to spur of the moment plans. And while it’s cool to have pictures of a place, I know that I’ll remember everything so much more vividly if I just set my phone down and breathe it all in. There truly are not enough hours in a day to spend 5 of them on a phone. I love to do too many things in life to spend it looking at a screen. Despite scraping my feet and losing my hat, I came away with so much more than I ever could have guessed. While looking back on it now it seems like a dream – however, at the time, it was the realest thing in the world, and I know that I will never forget it.

If Caleigh, Kendra, Nat, Jacob, and all the others I’ve met associated with the JRA are any indication, the James River Association is full of passionate, intelligent, and driven individuals who together have the power to do so much to help our river, and I hope to continue to be a part of it. I know that myself and all of my fellow expeditioners are proud to call ourselves #jameschangers.”

The Upper James River Expedition is thankful for the support from Bill Barnes, Jimmy Lewis, The town of Buchanan, Woodie Walker, Natural Bridge State Park, and the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay.” Catch us next week on the Middle James River Expedition!