Day 6 of the Expedition
A sleepy morning began with bagels and cream cheese made by our wonderful cooks Connor and Autumn. We moved quickly after breakfast to load our boats after our trip leaders led us in some stretches and a run down of how the day would go. 13 miles is a long way to travel downriver but the scenery and fast moving rapids made it seem like a quick journey. A large wolf spider made an appearance for us especially before we pushed off, and scared Anne Maxwell to death because it could swim.
Railroad ties were sighted on the riverbanks and even in the headwaters of a small tributary of the James. These ties have been sighted in mass quantities along the Upper James River. CSX was responsible for the dumping of the ties and their negligence of cleaning them up, but we hope to work with them in the coming months to ensure this issue is addressed and our waterway is more actively conserved by all!
On river right we saw a cow farm that allowed their cows to travel to the bank of the river and drink. However, this leads to higher nutrient levels and causes eutrophication of slower moving water downstream. The cows also destroy the riparian buffer, which protects the river from sediment, the number one pollutant in the James River.
Most of the trip was highlighted with beautiful scenery that included the Appalachian Mountains blanketed in forest landscape. The calm waters were higher today due to a water release from a dam along the Jackson River. Lunch was the usual: tortillas with a variety of condiments. Some of the guys and all the girls trudged up the river to float back down in the current, and Parker made a new butterfly friend that really loved his shirt. Everyone’s energy was revived when we switched partners after lunch. Zach and Parker really hit it off with smiles and loud talking while they paddled downriver. They even paused during their paddling to let us take a picture. Alex and Kyle led us up Cedar Creek, a murky tributary under a railroad bridge and natural waterfalls. The turbidity of this creek was 10 cm comparing to the turbidity of the water at camp, 88 cm, this morning. Everybody relaxed in the very cold water of Cedar Creek while our scientists did some measurements. During this break, we also rehydrated with water and green Gatorade. Everybody took a quick snack break followed by swimming. Getting into the boat was a real struggle in the deep waters.
Following some rapids, we saw a funky lookin’ bridge that seemed to be upside down. Our expert on ichthyology (Zach) came up with a story about a giant that wanted to mess with the railroad so he turned the bridge upside down. One of the supports seemed to be a lot smaller than the other, and this bridge just looked funny. The bridge marked the one mile point until we made it to our campsite. At camp we unloaded the boats and set up the tents quickly, and then had some fun with Frisbees and footballs. Then, our adult leaders challenged us with group games including fitting all 11 of us into a canoe, which proved awkward for claustrophobic people. Then another game was flipping over a tarp we were all standing on without getting off of it. We had some delicious stir-fry made by our cooks and then had a group discussion about the day. Finally, it was off to bed for our upcoming eight-mile hike in the morning!