School’s out, and so begins the scramble for summertime fun. Seasoned parents know most of the options, but every once in a while something pops up on the radar that is so uniquely Virginia that it begs for a little notice. Before humidity kicks off a real southern scorcher, and movement is relegated to pools and grocery stores, a little drive into the country may just be in order. Heading to the James River for a picnic or a stroll or a tubing adventure always seems to bring out the best in people, but the James wasn’t always just a destination spot for weekenders.
The 2002 James River Batteau Festival is celebrating its 17th year of flat-bottomed boat fun. These boats (or batteaux) were used to transport tobacco and other goods from areas in Central Virginia to Richmond in the late 1700s. The boats were generally from six to eight feet wide, 40-50 feet long and were constructed of white oak. The Festival is mostly for fun and to raise awareness of the importance these boats played in Virginia’s history. The Virginia Canals and Navigations Society would also like to use this event to promote the building and operation of authentic replicas of James River Batteaux as well as to call attention to the James River basin as a geographical community of special significance to Virginia and the nation and to promote awareness of the river as an important natural resource.
Beginning Saturday, June 15 in Lynchburg, 12 batteaux are expected to launch their crafts along with several canoes and head south. Monday, June 17 should see them in Wingina camped out for the evening where dinner will be available along with ice and drinking water. Tuesday brings them into Howardsville, just north of where the Rockfish River meets the James. Wednesday is the traditional stop at Scottsville where historical demonstrations, (spinning, weaving, basket making) food, and music continue all day and into the night.
The experience should resonate with historical authenticity and reveal Scottsville as a thriving river town complete with commerce and pedestrians. So drive a little and see a lot in Scottsville.
For maps and more information about fees, camping, and general participation check the website at HYPERLINK "http://www.batteau.org" www.batteau.org. Scottsville is located on Route 20 south of Charlottesville about 15 miles. Howardsville and Wingina are both located on Route 626 southwest of Scottsville 10 and 17 miles respectively.