Retracing The Marshall Expedition of 1812
photo of a Batteau (shallow draft, flat bottomed boat) on the banks of the Greenbrier River by taylor .
While putting my kayak in the Greenbrier River at Caldwell today I ran in to some cool dudes with an awesome boat. After chatting for a while I soon came to realize that they were doing something very special, an expedition or something. Later on in the day after some research I found out the magnitude of what they were trying to accomplish. More about their journey here!
At the request of the Virginia General Assembly in 1812, 56-year old Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall led a group of commissioners on a journey to discern the feasibility of navigational improvements between Lynchburg, Virginia and the Great Falls of the Kanawah. A reliable commercial route to the Kanawah would open trade with the Ohio River Valley and ultimately access to the Mississippi. They departed Lynchburg September 1, 1812.(vacanals.org/marshall)
Now in 2012, the crew of the Batteau “Mary Marshall” aim to retrace the original journey that John Marshall completed in 1812. The goal of the Marshall Expedition project is to commemorate the Bi-Centennial of John Marshall’s journey, giving tribute to Marshall’s courage and vision by retracing the length of the original intended canal line. Construction of the 43′x 7′ batteau is now complete (above pic). The trek began in Richmond, and follows this path: To ascend the James to the Jackson, all the way to Dunlap Creek in Covington. A batteau ascent of this length has not been attempted in at least 150 years and is bound to be an extremely arduous undertaking. The 23-mile section between Snowden and Lynchburg is impassable because of dams built since Marshall’s journey. So from Covington, the crew will cross the Allegheny Mountains and descend the Greenbrier and New Rivers. Close to the end of the journey they will descend the New River Gorge, a significant series of class IV rapids.
The Batteau Crew of the Marshall Expedition are all native sons of the James River. After personally meeting the crew, I can tell you they are dedicated and excited to have the opportunity to do this, wouldn’t you! They want to put a spotlight on our Nation’s founding river, as well as the other amazing Appalachian Rivers that they explore. The James River Batteau Festival has given much inspiration to these guys, the eight-day, 120-mile festival features over a dozen batteaux and hundreds of canoers and kayakers each year, making the historic trip from Lynchburg to Richmond. This unique event provides participants an opportunity to revel in both the critical role of riparian transit in Virginia’s history and the pleasure of traveling down the beautiful James.
Our region’s rivers are tremendous historical and ecological resources. This expedition of 2012 is meant to inspire people to become more engaged in utilizing and protecting them. This remarkable voyage is the crews tribute to the bold men whose steadfast resolve to establish commercial links across the rugged and unforgiving Appalachian Mountains helped make this Nation what it is today. To learn more about this historical event follow the expedition here!