Category: Rivers

Oak Alley Plantation

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

We are on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) in New Orleans. Driving north, we crossed the Mississippi River, that always impresses me. It is big, appears to be rather fast and is heavily trafficked by barges shipping products.

We visited Oak Alley Plantation. Oak Alley is.a beautiful place with its oak-lined drive, gardens and slave quarters. Turning away from the house, I saw a ship making its way up the Mississippi. The plantation has rooms and cabins for rent as well as an excellent dining room, where we had breakfast.

After some initial shots, we went into the restaurant for a good breakfast.

Picture on the wall of he restaurant

Back outside, we walked the grounds and gardens.

Heading back, Mark had found an eagle’s nest with a young one taking short flights.

Then on to Middendorf’s Manchac Restaurant at the Manchac Swamp Bridge, known for its thin-sliced catfish. A lot of other things also looked good on the menu.

Back at the hotel, Mark reviewed and helped us with our images, pointing out ways to improve and showing us editing techniques and sequence. In the evening, we took a ghost tour, but it was rather disappointing, so we dropped out.

Manatee Springs State Park

This is the second time we have been to Manatee Springs, and we will be back! The campground is excellent and the springs and boardwalk are very cool. It is a short stream from the springs to the lovely Suwannee River, but don’t underestimate it. Depending on the time you come, there will be opportunities to see a large variety of wildlife. This site lists 179 species of birds sighted: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L127260. Of course, there are manatees which we were fortunate to see. This is a place for kayaking, swimming, picnicking, hiking and diving, so it is a popular spot.

We hiked a beautiful trail through the park, then went to dinner at Suwannee Belle Landing, a very good restaurant on the river. Using a shuttle service to take us up stream, we kayaked the Suwannee for two hours down to the springs. I wasn’t too excited about floating what seemed to be a docile river with little wildlife, so I didn’t take a camera. As luck would have it, I was once again proven wrong. The Suwanee is a beautiful river teeming with wildlife. We watched 50 Ibis fly into the trees, herons along the edges of the river, fish jumping, black vultures migrating and a tree full of wood storks. Sometimes it’s nice just to float along and enjoy the ride! Next time we will take a longer float and take the camera.

Suwanee River at dusk
Belle Landing
Alligator tacos
Key lime pie

Sandstone Falls

Sunday, October 9, 2021

I am on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky at https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com. We were rained out from a shoot of Sandstone Falls earlier in the week, so Mark suggested I go by there on my way home. We have had a great week, seeing some spectacular places and kicking my photography up a notch. I have a list of things to order when I get home, but first to see Sandstone Falls near Hinton, West Virginia.

From:https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/the-sandstone-falls.htm:

The largest waterfall on the New River, Sandstone Falls spans the river where it is 1500 feet wide. Divided by a series of islands, the river drops 10 to 25 feet.

Sandstone Falls marks the transition zone of the New River from a broad river of large bottomlands, to a narrow mountain river roaring through a deep boulder strewn V- shaped gorge. The falls form the dramatic starting line for the New Rivers final rush trough the New River Gorge to its confluence with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River.

Your journey to view the falls will require some driving time, but it will take you along two of the park’s most scenic roads, Route 20 from I-64 at the community of Sandstone, ten miles upstream to the town of Hinton, then downstream eight miles along River Road, the park’s only scenic riverside drive. Both these routes offer several overlooks, historic sites, natural areas, trails, and river access points.

Most visitors will find the best starting point for their journey to Sandstone Falls at the Sandstone Visitor Center at the Sandstone exit 139 on I-64. The Visitor Center has excellent exhibits on the New River watershed, water resources, and natural and cultural history of the upper New River Gorge, plus park maps and information.

As you drive south, high above the river on Route 20 to Hinton you will pass two park vistas. The Sandstone Falls Overlook provides an aerial view of the falls from 600 feet above the river. Brooks Overlook looks down on the mile-long Brooks Island, a perennial bald eagle nesting site.

Hinton is the southern gateway to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. A once booming railroad center, the town has a large historic district, railroad museum, antique shops, and restaurants.

After crossing the bridge at Hinton you will begin driving alongside the New River down River Road. There are great riverside vistas, several river access points, a trail, picnic area and small boardwalk view at Brooks Falls, a powerful Class III rapid. The journey ends at the Sandstone Falls day use area, where you begin your walk along the boardwalk and bridges that span the two islands below the falls.

For some reason geese seem to love rapids. Several times I have seen them frolicking in the rapids, taking baths, eating something from the bottom. Mallard ducks were in with this group, and seemed quite happy. I could have photographed the geese all day, but it was time to get home. Many thanks to Mark for all the work, research, scouting and teaching. His tremendous enthusiasm is contagious.

Grandview/Little Beaver Lake

Sunday, October 9, 2021

“Grandview is a peaceful place to relax and unwind while enjoying outstanding views of the New River. From 1400 feet above the river at Main Overlook, visitors are rewarded with one of the most outstanding views in the park. On a clear day you can see directly into the heart of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, including seven miles of the New River and its watershed. From Main Overlook visitors can also get a glimpse of some of the gorge’s unique cultural history. From here you see an active railway and the town of Quinnimont, where the first coal was shipped out of the gorge in 1873. Don’t miss the views from Turkey Spur Overlook, and be sure to walk the woodland trails.

Grandview is a great place to see the spectacular displays of Catawba rhododendrons that bloom here every spring. The purple Catawba rhododendrons bloom in mid May, while the white great rhododendrons bloom in July. The exact bloom times are not always consistent year to year, so check with a ranger at one of our visitor centers or check our facebook page for updates. 

The Grandview section of the park includes overlooks of the New River, a visitor center (open seasonally), five hiking trails, ranger-led walks and talks, summer outdoor dramas, and picnic areas with playgrounds. Information about renting picnic shelters at Grandview can be found on the Permits and Reservations page of this website. Grandview is home to Theatre West Virginia, which features outdoor drama presentations from June through August.

Grandview was originally a part of the West Virginia State Park system. In 1939, the state of West Virginia purchased 52 acres of land at Grandview to develop a day use park. The Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, shelters, and a picnic area, all still in use today. Construction began in 1960 on the 1200-seat Cliffside Amphitheater. The children’s playgrounds, recreation area, and additional walkways were built from 1961 to 1964. After more than 50 years as one of West Virginia’s most popular state parks, Grandview was transferred to the National Park Service in 1990.

Directions

To reach Grandview from Beckley follow I-64 East five miles to Exit 129 B. From Lewisburg follow I-64 West forty miles to Exit 129. From either exit, turn right and follow Route 9 North six miles to Grandview.” from: https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/grandview.htm.

It sometimes looks like this:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/573575702516450754/

butt what we found was:

Off we went to Little Beaver Lake, trying to get there before the sun got too high and the winds picked up. It is a beautiful, little lake, complete with campground and state park. “With 562-acres, Little Beaver State Park offers family fun, beautiful scenery and incredible outdoor recreation. The park features nearly 20 miles of trails to explore and an 18-acre lake where anglers may fish year-round. Stand up paddle board, kayak, canoe and paddleboat rentals are available seasonally. Park visitors can also enjoy biking, picnicking and camping at Little Beaver.” from: https://wvstateparks.com/park/little-beaver-state-park/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_Lfxn_Ho8wIVHR-tBh1ZbAOeEAAYASAAEgJr3vD_BwE.

The New River Bridgewalk

Saturday, October 8, 2021

I am on a great photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) touring some of the best places in West Virginia. After an early shoot at Babcock State Park, Mark and I went to Bridge Walk LLC for a walk across the New River Bridge on a catwalk running underneath the highway. I do not like heights, but Mark convinced me this is a highlight of the trip. Yesterday we explored a bridge beneath the bridge that gave us a great view of the larger bridge.

“When the New River Gorge Bridge was completed on October 22, 1977, a travel challenge was solved. The bridge reduced a 40-minute drive down narrow mountain roads and across one of North America’s oldest rivers to less than a minute. When it comes to road construction, mountains do pose a challenge. In the case of the New River Gorge Bridge, challenge was transformed into a work of structural art – the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States

The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the most photographed places in West Virginia. The bridge was chosen to represent the state on the commemorative quarter released by the U.S. Mint in 2006. In 2013, the National Park Service listed the New River Gorge Bridge in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant historic resource.” (https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/nrgbridge.htm)

Bridge Day

two base jumpers against a blue sky
Two BASE jumpers on their way down. NPS photo/John Chapman

“On the third Saturday of October, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce hosts “Bridge Day.” On this one day a year, the famous New River Gorge Bridge is open to pedestrians and a wide variety of activities—great views, food and crafts vendors, BASE jumping, rappelling, music, and more—draw thousands of people. Bridge Day is West Virginia’s largest one-day festival, and it is the largest extreme sports event in the world.

The first official Bridge Day was celebrated in 1980 when two parachutists jumped from a plane onto the bridge. They were joined by three additional parachutists, and all five then jumped from the bridge into the gorge.Today, the event lures hundreds of BASE jumpers, cheered on by thousands of spectators. “BASE” stands for Building, Antenna (tower), Span (arch or bridge), and Earth (cliff or natural formation), the four categories of objects in which BASE jumpers jump from.

Looking for information on Bridge Day? While the bridge may be the crown on the Beautiful New River Gorge, Bridge Day is an event hosted by the Bridge Day commission. For more information, visit the Official Bridgeday website, or call the New River Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 927-0263″.

As we were shooting the little waterfall from the middle of the bridge, a truck stopped, asking us if we were the ones shooting pictures from the bridge. They were the ones in the raft, and asked if we could send them a picture. Mark smiled and quickly air-dropped a picture to them. He is an expert iPhone photographer, and seems to always shoot some pictures with his phone. The pictures he gets with his phone are pretty amazing.

At Bridge Walk LLC, we got instructions from Paul Story, who has been doing this for a long time, and he has many stories. He is approximately my age, and I thought, if he can do this, so can I.We strapped up in a harness like one you would use for a zip line. Then he attached a line that would be connected to a long, overhead wire. I did not want to test its strength. We loaded a bus that didn’t have to go far to our starting point. Paul explained it is a 2-hour walk across the gorge on a walk suspended 25 feet below the 3,035 ft.bridge. Now I was getting a bit queazy.

Paul Story with some serious clips to attach us to the wire

In the afternoon, we had a great session with Mark on processing pictures, using a variety of software. Although I use and like Nikon View NX-i, I could see where Photoshop and several plug-ins take it to the next step. It was an excellent session.

Durbin Rocket Train Ride in West Virginia

Thursday, October 7, 2021

I am on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) touring some of the prettiest places in West Virginia. We were scheduled to take the Durbin Rocket Train ride at 10:00. That gave us just enough time for a shoot of Blackwater Falls from below. It is a beautiful waterfall. It’s fun to look over Mark’s shoulder as he composes, adjusts his exposure, positions himself, shoots and then to see the final result in the camera. It’s also fun to have him look at my pictures and point out what I might have changed. Why did I choose that F-stop. Why that speed? Could you have composed differently to save time in processing?

We arrived at the train station 30 minutes early, as planned and discussed settings for this moving environment. We could have taken the Cass Train ride, which is a 4-hour trip, but opted to try the Durbin, which is only two hours following the Greenbrier River. A vintage steam engine pulled four cars along the river. It picked up two caboose cars that were left on the tracks. A nice family had stayed there for two nights and said it was very comfortable, with plenty of room, and they really enjoyed it. The train also stopped briefly to load water for steam from a tributary stream.

Although not peak fall colors, there was plenty of color, interesting houses, farms, barns, apple trees and a beautiful river. the train went backward during the first half and forward on the way back. It was more pleasant on the first half, as the smell of diesel fuel got to us on the return.

He had more stories than a library has books

Heading down the road, we went to Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. Then on to Lewisburg. Of course we couldn’t resist shooting some pretty places along the way.

We thought we would shoot Droop Mountain Battlefield Tower at sunset, but it was all fogged in. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Lewisburg, then went to dinner at “Food and Friends” in downtown Lewisburg. It was excellent – great food, great service at a reasonable price, and we sat at a table next to a window so we could watch all the people passing by.

from: https://greenbrierwv.com/places/29/food-friends

Blackwater Falls State Park

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the amber waters of Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot cascade tinted by the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. The falls, along with a few of the park’s other features like Elakala Falls, Lindy Point and Pendleton Point Overlook, are some of the state’s most photographed spots. Visitors can enjoy the scenic views year-round by taking the steps to the falls or using viewing platforms. The park has 20 miles of hiking trails, the longest sledding magic carpet on the East Coast in the winter, a comfortable lodge and more. (from https://wvstateparks.com/park/blackwater-falls-state-park/)

We stopped in the lodge to check into a 3-bedroom cabin, complete with a nice kitchen, two bathrooms, a laundry room and a deck out back with a fire pit surrounded by logs for seating. There is a lot to see in this park, and as you can see, we had already done a lot on this second day of the workshop. Still, Mark found time to show us his routing for downloading and backing up his images. Then there was a bit on processing images, but more was to come later. This was a part I was very interested. He also showed us how to clean our sensors. I have three Nikon cameras, and one I had given up on because of the big blob I get on the images, but we cleaned that right up 😊.

Lodge getting new Pella windows
Cabin, Blackwater Falls SP
From the bridge over the Blackwater River

At sunset we went to Lindy Point, a beautiful spot overlooking Blackwater Canyon.

On The Way to Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Friday, October 5, 2021

I am on a photography workshop with my friend Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) touring and photographing some of the most scenic places in West Virginia. We made several stops on our drive with Mark in the lead and Kevin and I following in our cars.

On our drive from Valley Falls to Blackwater Falls State Park, we stopped a couple of times, including a stop at Archie’s Barbecue, 25259 Garrett Hwy, McHenry, MD 21541. If you are traveling this way, Archies is a happening. Closed inside, a couple told us it was a drive-through during Covid, so we drove around, not noticing the big menus on two sides of the building. We finally figured it out and placed our order. Ten minutes later a young man brought our orders out to one of the picnic tables out front. Soon others drove up, and like us, tried to order from a window in the front. The friendly couple directed them to the drive-through, and we told them where the menus were. Shortly, there were cars and trucks driving up from all three directions. It seemed we were in the middle of nowhere, but it was obviously a hot spot. The food was great, though a bit expensive, but they piled it on. I would certainly go back.

We had some great discussions about “Border Patrol”. “Do you want the weed sticking out? Do you want the blob in the water? Can you crop the picture to clean it up?” One I will forever remember as I was walking away to shoot: “Don’t blow out the highlights Greg.”

It is interesting how fall colors were great in some places while others had barely started. I love shooting barns, and we found some, but traveling in a caravan of three cars, we couldn’t find a safe place to pull over in most places.

Valley Falls State Park, West Virginia

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I am on a photography workshop with my friend Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) touring and photographing some of the most scenic places in West Virginia.

Once the site of a lumber and grist mill community, Valley Falls State Park is a place of scenic beauty and historical significance. A series of four picturesque falls created by the dark, rushing waters of the Tygart Valley River distinguish this 1,145-acre park. In addition to its scenic charm, Valley Falls State Park offers miles of hiking and biking trails and fishing. The day-use park gates open at 7 a.m. and close at dark. From: https://wvstateparks.com/park/valley-falls-state-park/

From Google Maps

Kephart Prong

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

50° at 4:00

Batteries at 51%

Charlie Roberts, the fly tier I met at Chasteen Creek, told me to try Kephart Prong and to start fishing where the stream makes a big turn away from the trail.  My plan was to fish this all day. I’ve been distracted by other things, and the fishing has taken a back seat. I have fished every day, but today, that was all I was going to do. Two cars were parked in front of me when I arrived at 8:00. Now maybe that sounds late, but the sun doesn’t come up until 7:20, and it was only 50°. My guess is they were hikers. There are lots of hikers in this park, and why not? There are tons of trails that are well-marked and maintained. There are backcountry campsites all over the park. If you are a hiker, this is paradise. Of course the Appalachian Trail goes right through the center of the park along its highest ridges.

I didn’t bring the Garmin GPS, telling myself, “Why would I need it?”. I did bring the InReach, which is a satellite device that allows me to send messages and track where I go. Martha had sent a message on it asking where I was. It also has a map I can access with an app on my phone. Trouble was it wasn’t giving me any detail. Seems I need to download a map. OK, I was going to walk up the trail until I could see the stream turning away from the trail (a road really). 

After crossing the beautiful stream a couple of times, I thought it turned away from the trail, so I started fishing. I came here for 9 days of fishing because I had seen so many beautiful streams on my previous trip, and this was another one. It’s the perfect size. With huge boulders, plunging pools and crystal clear water, I could see why Charlie recommended it. 

I had on the purple fly with white hackle that had at least produced some interest. I don’t know what it is – maybe a purple haze. I got some small fish splashing at it, but after 40 minutes of that, I decided to switch. There was a serious hatch of tiny brown bugs, yet I didn’t see any fish rising. I was not going to fish anything that small, but I put on a # 16 brown Caddis. 20 minutes later with zero interest, I went to a Royal Wulff. Nothing. Climbing this mountain through one beautiful pool after another, there HAD to be fish in here! 

It was not easy going, climbing over and around boulders, going up a steep mountain. I had to get out once to get around a waterfall, but that wasn’t so easy either. Wandering around the forest, climbing over logs and fallen trees, I watched every footstep for a moving stick. I don’t hear so well, and with a pounding stream beside me, I would never hear a rattlesnake trying to warn me. At least I didn’t want to step on one. I was relieved to get back in the stream.

There was a big hatch of these, whatever they are!

I have never seen so many hatches – constantly, all day long, and different kinds. I switched to a Light Cahill. First cast a hit! A voice said, “And now the fun begins.” Like the Purple Haze, little fish hit it, but not much else. One nice fish took it as the fly went under a rock. I thought I was caught on something, but it moved, wiggled and then it was gone. It was probably a good thing, as I would have kept it for dinner. It would turn out to be the only keeper I caught all day.

It’s bigger than this looks

“What’s the deal?” I thought. Are they full from eating all these bugs? Certainly, I have never seen so many hatches on an eastern stream, and with such variety. Was someone fishing in front of me? I didn’t think so. I hadn’t seen any footprints, although it’s all rocks, and most of those are covered with beautiful, soft moss. Or were there just too many fishermen and women in this park. I mean it’s the last place I know of where you can keep five fish over 7 inches. When I was growing up, five was the limit, but they had to be 8 inches. We used to catch and keep our limit every time out. But then, we only fished April 1st until June when the snakes came out. Summers were for smallmouth fishing or golf. 

Hardly anyone walked 45 minutes up a mountain and fished all day for five 8-inch fish. The vast majority fished lower down, where the fish were stocked. Then a movie changed everything – A River Runs Through it. Now everyone fishes for trout. Still, most people are attracted to the bigger fish – trophy fish.

The stream was getting smaller and steeper with fewer pools, so I got out when I could see the trail and walked up. The shelter couldn’t be far. Usually shelters were for the Appalachian Trail, but I wasn’t sure the Trail came through here. When i arrived, two men and a woman were talking and welcomed me. They were all hikers. One man was staying at Mile High Campground “where they have showers”, he said. He likes to stay there and hike a variety of trails. 

I was trying to film a hatch. You can barely see them on the left

The husband and wife were staying in a hotel where they have showers. He had knee surgery just 8 weeks ago! He said two fishermen came down earlier and hadn’t caught anything either. One said he had been fishing this stream for 30 years, and had always caught fish. He noted there are now over 100 fishing guides in the area, and it has hurt the fishing. I must say I felt better hearing that. I had worked hard all day, and although I am not the greatest fisherman, I thought I fished fairly well today. I had changed flies, tried to match the hatch and cast pretty well, but hadn’t produced a thing.

There have been articles questioning, “Are We Loving Our National Parks to Death?” Certainly, this park gets a ton of visitors. There are really only two roads in this huge park, and the traffic is heavy. The trails I have been on are well-traveled, and the campgrounds are booked solid. I could not get a site at any other campground in the park. They are booked solid, and the leaves are just starting to turn. In two weeks it will really be busy.

I love it here. These are beautiful mountains with lots of gorgeous trout streams. Yet, I caught two keepers in nine days. Kelly would have caught a lot more, but still, it is not what I expected. I had read stories of catching 50 or even 100 trout in a day. Hell, I bought a counter so I could keep track! I admit I don’t fish rainbows well, mostly because I’m not good at fishing under water. I prefer dry flies, and I prefer brook trout. I mean they smash the fly, then leap out of the water several times, run all around until you think you have a monster. Then it turns out to be an 8-inch fish. There is no better eating fish. You can clean one in 30 seconds. All you need to cook them is a pan and butter, and they are done in 5 minutes. They have a handle on each end, and when you are through eating, there is nothing left but a skeleton. Simply delicious! It has been a long time since I ate one. Even if you catch one, you can’t keep them – except here, and after a week of fishing here, I wouldn’t keep one if I did catch it. 

My opinion is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park should join the rest of east coast and make the park catch-and-release, barbless fly-fishing only.

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