Riverkeeper Report: Catch some history, learn about fish

Published 10:26 am Monday, October 14, 2013

This row of piling on the east shore of the Nottoway was used to catch logs floated down the river and hauled out. -- SUBMITTED | JEFF TURNER

This row of piling on the east shore of the Nottoway was used to catch logs floated down the river and hauled out. — SUBMITTED | JEFF TURNER

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 1 through the 3 on the Nottoway in the Courtland area of the river. The water was low at 3.20 on the USGS gauge in Sebrell, 72 degrees and still ultra-clear. Air temps ranged from 60 to 85 degrees. Skeeters still tough.

I had a really rough start to this trip. I forgot my paddle and my dry box. I have a list I use, but I know now not to check things off the night before I load the boat. Thank you, Tim and Freezing Deer for bringing me that gear. Really, though, in my defense this was the first time I have ever been on the river!

While out there I saw no water quality issues, but did pick up a large pesticide jug out of the river a couple miles above Courtland along with about a half a bag of the regular trash.

The fishing was pretty good despite the really low river level. I caught 14 bass to 2 pounds, a couple of yellow perch, a bunch of bream and two red eye. One of the red eye was about a pound. All were caught on a ¼ ounce Snagless Sally. I saw a bunch of other fish that looked like shad and were schooling. They must be gizzard shad because I’m pretty sure none of the anadromous shad are still alive in the river. They would not bite anything either.

On the second day I caught a glimpse of a bald eagle upriver from the Courtland Bridge, but never got close enough to take a picture. There is a nest up there, but I did not see it this trip as I was evidently to busy paddling.

Now I know ya’ll must be thinking I messed the title of this story up. Nope, I just wanted to catch your attention on the subject of river history. Up above the Courtland Bridge about a half a mile is an interesting place on the west side of the river. Now I’ve known about this place for years, but the water was so low on this trip and so much more was exposed it was like discovering it all over again.

I also found some exciting new stuff. Evidently there once was a sawmill at this location or some type of logging venture or something like that. Coming out from the shore and going out into the river toward the east shore is a row of pilings (see photo) driven into the river. These were used to catch logs being floated down the river to be hauled out at this place. I have seen these for years, but on this trip on the west side, 50 feet upriver from the log catcher, I found two wooden tracks or rails that go into the river from shore. They are about 5 or 6 feet apart and are held in place by timbers driven along their sides. So I’m guessing this is how they skidded the logs out of the river. The bottom of the river here is strewn with cut logs. It must have been a pretty big operation at one time.

Nearby there is a stream coming from the swamp. It looks like there was a water-powered mill there. Not sure if it was part of this operation or not, but it could have been a water-powered lumber mill for sure. If anyone can shed more light on this please contact me, I would love to know more about the place.

I sat there for quite some time just looking around and trying to imagine what it looked like in the day. It must have been a sight to see. That’s what I love so much about being out there on our local waterways. You can catch some history and learn about fish on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.

JEFF TURNER is the Blackwater/Nottoway Riverkeeper. He can be reached at blknotkpr@earthlink.net.