Roanoke Buzz: Second generation

Published 3:06 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2020

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When campers make on-line reservations to stay on our river platforms—in addition to filling in the usual name, contact information, dates and which platform they want to stay on—our reservation system also asks, “How did you find out about our platforms?”.

Recently a camper from Durham indicated that he came “as a child”— and had “been thinking about it since.”

We were thrilled to get this response. What this means is—kids who came in our early days—are now coming back as adults. This makes us happy on so many levels.

First, we (our network of partners) have survived all the obstacles that came our way over the past 23 years—our trail has survived—and is still drawing visitors to our region.

Second, kids who have had the chance to come want to come back. We are grateful there are parents, grandparents and youth groups that organize outings that give kids the chance to learn about our river and our platforms. We’d love to see more groups have a great outdoor adventure here on the Roanoke.

Third, we always hoped that our paddle trail would connect both kids and adults to transformative outdoor experiences. Based on recent feedback— we know that has happened.

Case in point—we recently heard from a dad in Virginia who brought his four-year-old daughter and her grandfather to camp on our Barred Owl platform back in 2002. He shared that this experience was “life-changing” for his daughter and had helped shape her path in life.

As it turns out, she is currently attending UNC Asheville studying Environmental Science and—no surprise— she loves to paddle. We were pleased to get pictures from their 2002 camping trip which included a submission to Canoe & Kayak Magazine (appeared in August 2004 edition).

Of course we loved hearing that their experience on our trail was something they still thought about eighteen years later. We also loved that they shared their Roanoke River story with Canoe & Kayak Magazine readers as well as with us.

If you have been reading this column, you likely know our very first river platform was built by volunteers in the fall of 1997. For the record, our 137-mile trail now includes fifteen platforms that span from Halifax to Plymouth.

Over the years there have been heaps of memories made on our trail. Some we have heard about—but we know there are lots more. Our Roanoke River Paddle Trail is a great place for friends and families to have memorable, shared experiences.

Even in recent weeks— we have been getting lots of inquiries asking if we are open. Callers have been glad to learn that we are. They are thinking of our trail as a place they can come to be outdoors while social distancing. We are glad our trail has played a role in both providing some solaces for our campers and as well as much needed economic activity for our region.

As our trail draws a second generation of paddlers and campers to the region, we are grateful to those who provide the necessary support to keep things going. It is our partners that we thank for the impact our trail has made on those who come for the incredible experience they find here as well as for the economic benefits delivered back to our region. Want to be a supporting partner?

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at