Journey on the James: Three Weeks through the Heart of Virginia

Journey on the James: Three Weeks through the Heart of Virginia

by Earl Swift
Journey on the James: Three Weeks through the Heart of Virginia

Journey on the James: Three Weeks through the Heart of Virginia

by Earl Swift


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From its beginnings as a trickle of icy water in Virginia's northwest corner to its miles-wide mouth at Hampton Roads, the James River has witnessed more recorded history than any other feature of the American landscape -- as home to the continent's first successful English settlement, highway for Native Americans and early colonists, battleground in the Revolution and the Civil War, and birthplace of America's twentieth-century navy.

In 1998, restless in his job as a reporter for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Earl Swift landed an assignment traveling the entire length of the James. He hadn't been in a canoe since his days as a Boy Scout, and he knew that the river boasts whitewater, not to mention man-made obstacles, to challenge even experienced paddlers. But reinforced by Pilot photographer Ian Martin and a lot of freeze-dried food and beer, Swift set out to immerse himself -- he hoped not literally -- in the river and its history.

What Swift survived to bring us is this engrossing chronicle of three weeks in a fourteen-foot plastic canoe and four hundred years in the life of Virginia. Fueled by humor and a dauntless curiosity about the land, buildings, and people on the banks, and anchored by his sidekick Martin -- whose photographs accompany the text -- Swift points his bow through the ghosts of a frontier past, past Confederate forts and POW camps, antebellum mills, ruined canals, vanished towns, and effluent-spewing industry. Along the banks, lonely meadowlands alternate with suburbs and power plants, marinas and the gleaming skyscrapers of Richmond's New South downtown. Enduring dunkings, wolf spiders, near-arrest, channel fever, and twenty-knot winds, Swift makes it to the Chesapeake Bay.

Readers who accompany him through his Journey on the James will come away with the accumulated pleasure, if not the bruises and mud, of four hundred miles of adventure and history in the life of one of America's great watersheds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813921198
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Publication date: 04/29/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 239
Sales rank: 649,073
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

About The Author

A staff writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Earl Swift has been a Fulbright fellow and twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He has backpacked the entire Appalachian Trail and completed a circumnavigation of the Chesapeake Bay by sea kayak. He lives in Norfolk with his daughter, Saylor.

Table of Contents

Day 1On which the journey's protagonists wander hypothermic and disoriented on Lantz Mountain, birthplace of the James1
Day 2On which the expedition follows the infant Jackson through the Alleghenies, and a gantlet of vicious pets9
Day 3About which the less is said, the better19
Day 4On which we reach navigable water, traverse Lake Moomaw, and reflect on the high cost of recreation27
Day 5Of whitewater and wolf spiders, and the Jackson's first brush with industry38
Day 6On which the expedition battles its way past all manner of obstacles to reach the James51
Day 7On which we paddle through a furnace, and among boomtowns gone bust56
Day 8Of oxbows, old stone, and the ghosts of a frontier past64
Day 9On which the expedition braces for big excitement and the prospect of crippling injury74
Day 10On which we risk soaking and arrest in the foam of Balcony Falls, then behold a river robbed85
Day 11Fleeing Lynchburg95
Day 12Thirty years after the river's worst night105
Day 13An old carving, an old ferry, and an old town at the horseshoe bend121
Day 14On which puny-brained geese outsmart us, and the fist of an angry God swings oh so close128
Day 15On which the expedition escapes State Farm in a hell-for-leather dash134
Day 16On which our faith in all things Swedish is tested146
Day 17Risky business in Richmond151
Day 18In the wake of the first European settlers--and against the tide161
Day 19What's that smell?174
Day 20On which we find Jamestown not at all like that Disney movie188
Day 21On which the expedition suffers one last blow199
Day 22At the James River's mouth211
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