Getting Out on the Smith River in Martinsville

Check out these photos of a trip down the Smith River from the South Martinsville access to the Smith River Sports Complex!

I have finally gotten on the Smith River.  It’s been on my list for years.  After all, it’s right here.  It’s a beautiful river and I’ve always wanted to get on it but I never could find anyone who knew the river to tell me anything about it.  Like… are there rapids?  Are there falls?  What skill level do you need? Et cetera. (This is not entirely true because there is an outfitter. Read this as I couldn’t get my husband interested in the Smith. He was fixated on the Dan.)

It was my good fortune that I got invited to tag along with my church group on a trip down the Smith from the South Martinsville Access Point down to the Smith River Sports Complex Access Point.  If you google the address for the South Martinsville Access Point (Tensbury Road, Martinsville), this is what you get. I’ve added a red circle around where the access point actually is.  The road goes up to it, trust me, and there’s limited parking along the sides of the access.  Depending on how they’re parked, six to ten cars could park here along the sides of the access.

This particular church group is from Horsepasture Christian Church and they usually have a river outing every summer. I went down the James River with them in 2016 and blogged about it here.

We met up at the South Martinsville Access Point at 9:30.  Our trip would be 4.6 miles to the Smith River Sports Complex Access Point. Per American Whitewater, the water flow was 399 CFS and we completed the run in well under three hours. Closer to two hours, if you can believe it.

Meeting Up at the South Martinsville Access Point
Meeting Up at the South Martinsville Access Point

This access point has a gentle grade into the river and plenty of room for several kayaks and canoes to put in at the same time.

Getting in the Water at South Martinsville Access Point
Getting in the Water at South Martinsville Access Point

This particular outing was led by our new youth minister, Kyle Thompson, pictured on the left (below).  Murphy,  pictured right, knew the river and where to find all the sights to be seen.

Preparing to Set Off
Preparing to Set Off

The river is beautiful and relatively wide. It is dammed just above this access point and again further upstream so it has a reputation for being cold but it didn’t seem all that chilly.  Murphy said that they have been letting a lot of water through lately so the temperature could be reflecting the quantity of rain water in the flow.

The river is wide and mostly calm
The River is Wide and Mostly Calm

There are a number of things that stretch across the river overhead.  Roads, train tressels and pipes all cross at points above your head as you go down the river.

Pipelines Cross Overhead
Pipelines Cross Overhead

An old train tressel crosses at one point.  The stonework of the piers makes this one look really old.  I think I may have a research project for some cold night this winter.  I’d love to know the history of this tressel.

A Train Tressel Crosses Overhead
A Train Tressel Crosses Overhead

Just on the other side of the tressel, there is a large sandbar where kayaks and canoes can be beached and you can get out and stretch your legs.

A Wide Sidebar Provides a Break Spot
A Wide Sidebar Provides a Break Spot

Just a little further downstream, still in sight of the sandbar, is the Frith Road Access Point.  Although the Virginia state site lists this as an access point for kayakers, there is no ramp. There are only steep stairs leading down to the river from the parking lot. There is a bit of a sandy beach and a garbage can.

Frith Road Access Point
Frith Road Access Point

The river is beautiful and very accessible.  There are some rapids that are fun to get through and we did have at least one spill in the group, but this is an easy stretch of river for all ages and all abilities.

Approaching a Rapid
Approaching a Rapid

And the frequent overhead structures are interesting.  It’s a nice reminder that you are still in civilization.  You did not have to drive three hours to get here.  You have all this beauty and natural recreation right in your own back yard.

Roads Cross Over the River
Roads Cross Over the River

Our trip was over before we knew it.  The Smith River Sports Complex access is on the left and is easy to spot. There was a metal grate that you can pull up to for disembarking.

The Smith River Sports Complex Access Point is Easy To Spot.
The Smith River Sports Complex Access Point is Easy To Spot.

All in all, this was a wonderful event.  I am so thankful that I was able to go with my group to finally get acquainted with the Smith.

The Access Point at Smith River Sports Complex
The Access Point at Smith River Sports Complex

This stretch that we went on does not require a significant skill level.  Just below this access point, however, is Eggleston Falls  – a moderate class III rapid that drops 5 to 6 feet, per American Whitewater.  The video below is by Brian Williams, Project Manager for the Dan River Basin Authority.

Doesn’t that look like fun?

If you are interested in getting out on the Smith River, please check out Smith River Outfitters.  They can get you out on the Smith or on Philpott Lake for as little as $35 for a half day.  You can hire a guide for $50. Would you like a fly fishing guided trip to try your hand for trout? They’ve got that covered too. In fact, there’s a little over a three mile stretch of the Smith that is stocked with rainbow trout 5 times a year between October 1st and June 15th.

For even more information, be sure to check out the Smith River Blueway and the Smith River Trails System.

Author: Beth Barton

My husband and I chose to live in Henry County, Virginia because of its abundant natural beauty, temperate climate, and slow pace of life. I keep hoping to someday discover my inner artist but have so far only excelled at purchasing supplies. I am hoping that my Canon Powershot SX740HS will be a more rewarding purchase to bring news and photos to my family and friends through Life in MHC.

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