An On-line Journal of My Kayak Adventures in Eastern Virginia

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nottoway River - 10/6/12

     This was my second trip on the Nottoway, and the river has become one of my favorite places to paddle. If you want to learn a little more about the river itself, some of that info is in my first post.  On the earlier trip I had tried to locate the legendary tree, Big Mama, once Virginia's oldest tree, but now sadly deceased. Armed with more information about her location I headed out again in early October. My put in point was the landing at the end of Old Bridge Rd. (Rte. 742) near Courtland, Virginia. The road leading to the landing is unpaved and the landing itself is unimproved, but that's a good thing for paddlers as you will not have to mind your way around power boats and trailers. It is just a dirt ramp leading to the water. There are only a few places to park, so I would get there early on nice weekends. I was there very early, not for the parking, but to capture the light on the water.

     On the day of my trip the river was running very low, about 4' below  normal.  This prevented me from seeing Big Mama, who rests in peace at the Cypress Bridge Swamp Natural Area Preserve, which is immediately adjacent to the landing. However, there is no shortage of impressive living trees, especially bald cypresses. The name Old Bridge Rd. becomes evident at the landing as the pilings of an old bridge still stand in the water. For my trip I headed upriver, generally northwest and right from the landing. Immediately right of the landing is a cove that leads into the preserve, but it will dead end sooner or later depending on the water level. The current for my trip was rather mild, and I was able to paddle for quite a while until I got tired and returned to the landing, letting the river do the work on the way back. The low water left a lot of exposed tree roots and sandbars, several of which I got out to explore. Wildlife sightings on this trip were abundant and included deer, turkey, herons, egrets, kingfishers, common mergansers, river otters, and most exciting for me, pileated woodpeckers. As I paddled it, the trip was just over 6 miles.

Pilings of the Old Bridge

Roots Exposed from Low Water

The Nottoway is a fresh, blackwater river, 60 miles from the ocean, but its ancient past is revealed by low water and oyster shells.

View Nottoway 10.6.12 in a larger map


  1. Nice Les. I would have liked to see Big Mama as well. How did you know about her? Also, do you take a compass or ever worry about getting lost?

  2. I first heard about Big Mama from the Va. Native Plant Society and from an article in the Pilot. A friend who lives in Courtland told me kind of how to get there, and no I do not take my compass. I generally look ahead on maps to see where I am going and to get the lay of the land, so to speak.