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Friday, July 27, 2012

Day Three: Hatcher Island to Westover

This morning we had to wake up at five-thirty!  The early wake-up call didn’t seem so bad when we were served cheese grits and a cinnamon bun bonus from Ron Alexander, a local Boy Scout leader and friend of Hatcher Island. Another benefit this morning was that the tide was on our side, making for a quick six miles.
 The newly installed solar panel on Presquile National Wildlife
 Refuge in tied into the grid and will power the operation of the Ecology School
With our arms starting to feel like noodles, it was a dream come true when we pulled in to our first stop of the morning, Presquile National Wildlife Refuge.  We were met by Fish and Wildlife Service employees Cyrus Brame and Emma Sculthorpe, who welcomed us to the Refuge and explained what the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) does to protect habitat for wildlife. 

Cyrus told us about a research project that FWS is working on with Virginia Commonwealth University at Presquile.  They are studying a newly federally listed endangered fish, known as the Atlantic sturgeon, who lives in the James.  The Atlantic sturgeon can grow up to 10 feet long.  Nobody knows where they lay their eggs but the James River Association has helped put a sturgeon spawning reef near Presquile to try and help bring back this ancient species. 

Before getting back on canoes we explored the new education center on Presquile where the James River Association will be leading environmental education programs with school and youth groups as part of the Ecology School.  We walked down to the site where the Ecology School bunkhouse is under construction.  When complete, groups will be able to stay overnight on the island in the stilted bunkhouse.

We then set out down river to find the Rice Center. In here we received air conditioning, soda, and very comfy seats. Dr.Paul talked about how river scientists test the water quality and about his research on algae on the Lower James.  He shared some of his research and explained to us how nutrients and dissolved oxygen levels affect the river.

The Rice Center is a LEED certified building
Never a missed "dock-jumping" opportunity
 Now with our minds drifting and our muscles aching we set out to journey around two miles. Soon after we were joined by a massive thunderstorm and paddled to shelter under a bamboo stand at our campsite for the night, Westover Plantation.  We set up camp in recorded time and had amazing spicy chili along with some fun with friends before exploring the beautiful historic plantation that we called home for the night.

The impressive Westover Plantation

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