Fifteen batteaux set off from Lynchburg down the James River to near Richmond Saturday morning as the 37th annual James River Batteau Festival got underway in Lynchburg. The festival will continue through next Saturday, June 25, when the boats come out of the water at Maiden’s Landing.
The batteaux are hand-built to the same specifications as the watercraft which hauled tobacco, flour, and other cargo along the James and multiple other rivers in Virginia from the late 1700s up through about 1840 when they were mostly replaced with canal boats and railroads. In fact, one of the batteau is named for Anthony Rucker, an Amherst County tobacco grower, who is credited with inventing the Virginia batteau with his brother Benjamin. Previous versions of the Anthony Rucker were among the original recreations when the festival began in the 1980s.
The weather for the launch of the batteaux is generally hot and sticky along the river, typical for June in Virginia. But Saturday, humidity was low, temperatures were mild, and several hundred people on both the Lynchburg and Amherst sides of the river watched the launch.
As usual, multiple kayaks and canoes accompanied the fleet downstream, with dogs and small children playing in the shallow water before the traditional cannon blast that starts the festival. The batteau crews will camp along the way each night.
For background story on what a batteau is, see our previous story, “Celebrating eight days on the James.” (note: This is an excellent, in-depth article on the batteaux.)
Comment: A great little story by Joe Stinnet for the Cardinal News. This celebration/excursion started Sunday in magnificent weather for southern Virginia in mid-June. The batteaux are accompanied by a slew of canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. It would be a hoot to join the crowd just to see the batteaux with their fore and aft sweepers negotiate the currents and rapids of the upper James River. More on the ongoing Batteaux Festival is on their Facebook page.
It would be a great trip without the crowds or batteaux with just myself and my younger son in our kayaks. Hell, we can go through Richmond and haul out at the docks at Rockett’s Landing. That’s practically home for my son. But we’d portage around Bosher’s Dam, a low-head dam in Richmond. Two women who weren’t sufficiently respectful of the danger posed by low-head dams lost their lives over Memorial Day weekend.