Park’s canoes help re-introduce community to Mayo River

The Town of Mayodan is named for the Mayo and Dan Rivers, but even for residents, the Mayo River must sometimes seem a mysterious presence. It flashes briefly through the dense woods at highway overpasses, and must be sought out with some effort, like a friendly-but-shy uncle at family reunions.

The Mayo River offers enough fast water to make a trip interesting.
The Mayo River offers enough fast water to make even a short paddling trip interesting.

So the staff at Mayo River State Park is making a determined effort to re-introduce people to the namesake river in western Rockingham County and reveal its obvious potential as an outdoor destination by staging canoe trips on the waterway.

It’s not easy. The state park has 2,187 acres spread among 12 tracts from the Virginia-North Carolina border south to Mayodan, but as yet, there are no suitable, dedicated paddling access points on park property, said Superintendent Keith Martin. Though he’s confident that land for good access will eventually be secured, for the time being, Martin and his employees face complicated logistics for the one-hour and five-hour canoe trips they offer. Those depend on the good will of landowners that allow the park to use riverfront property in limited ways and the towns of Mayodan and Madison (which maintains the only formal paddling access on the river).

Access to the Mayo River requires careful logistics/
Access to the Mayo River requires careful logistics.

Pickups and drop-offs for the trips demand some coordinated effort of the small staff and even park visitors. For example, the final stretch involves paddling upriver on the Dan a short ways to reach the Madison takeout point. That can be a bit of a struggle for inexperienced paddlers, so Martin has devised an “emergency” takeout on private land for those who need it.

But it’s all worth it. For much of the warm months, the Mayodan is a low-flow river offering shallow, fast-water stretches that excite the newbie paddler, heavy shade with cooling breezes and a sense of absolute solitude in the heart of the community. For long stretches, there are no buildings, houses or backyards facing the river. Its water is clear and clean and one of the reasons the Mayo was handpicked as a potential state park site.

“It takes about as long to get ready for these trips as it does to float them,” Martin said. “But, it’s important to get people onto the river in some fashion. That’s what the state park is all about.”

Mayo River State Park was authorized by the legislature in 2003 at the request of the state parks system and opened its first interim facilities in 2010 at the site of the Old Mayo Park – a beloved former community recreation site created in 1948 by Washington Mills, Mayodan’s principal employer decades ago. The site’s small lakes have become a venue for a popular family fishing day each year.

Martin guesses he has introduced about 50 people to the river using the canoe trips, and most have been local residents, some of whom may have never splashed in its waters before. Outdoor outfitters are eager to get more recreational paddlers from Triad population centers only an hour’s drive away.

Information about the paddling trips and other programs at Mayo River State Park can be found here.

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