West Virginia Hills by Jeff Ellis

Friday, June 11, 2010

River Living

     Welcome to the first in a new series about River Living. In this series I will be covering all sorts of information about life along the Ohio River. I may be covering what I see along the river from the view on my front deck, or about the parks and campsites located along the river, to people I meet boating, or anything else I might happen across in my travels up and down the river. When I arrived back in my hometown just about a year ago I knew that river living at the edge of the Ohio would be truly special, and I am blessed to have this opportunity to share it with you.

     Last week Connie and I were taking a break from the work we were doing, and since it was a warm day in the early afternoon we decided to enjoy our break from our front deck overlooking the river. It wasn't too long before a canoe came paddeling up to the old ferry landing with two "gentlemen" on board with a hefty load of equipment and supplies. I knew immediately that they were not the run of the mill paddlers that we usually see, and thus I became very interested, wondering about where upriver they were coming from and where downriver they were going.

     As they made their way to a successful landing and exited their canoe, the younger of the two men came walking up the street calling back to his partner that they were in Ravenswood. I stood observing from the deck, and as the man approached I called out a greeting to him. He returned my greeting and inquired about directions to where he might find a store to get ice and some other supplies. I gave him directions, glad that I could be of some help to a visitor to our landing here on the river.

    As soon as he left for the store I grabbed my camera and notebook and tore out the door toward the landing to speak with the older man waiting down at the landing. As I approaced he had his back to me, looking out over the river from the landing. I hollered out from some distance, "Welcome to Ravenswood," as I approached. The man turned to face me and thanked me for my warm welcome, though he seemed somewhat surprised that I was there and greeting him in such a manner. I asked where they were coming from and he told me that he and his son had started their river journey from Clarington, Ohio and had been traveling for seven days. (Clarington, Ohio is located between Moundsville and New Martinsville on the Ohio side of the river.)

     As we exchanged introductions I learned his name was James (Jim) Webb, that he was from Cincinnati, Ohio, and that he was 60 years old. He has been traveling the Ohio River since 1993, and has completed the entire length ( approximately 981 miles) of the river from Pittsburg, PA to Cairo, IL once. This particular trip he was traveling with his son, Christopher Webb (age 38, and also from Cincinnati), who after completing this trip will have one more segment of 204 miles of the river, until he too will have completed the full length of this great river by canoe.


     Mr Webb told me that they paddled about twenty mils a day, and that this was their seventh day on this trip. Their destination was Pomeroy, Ohio where they would be picked up. He told me about his experience of going through the locks in a canoe. The whole business sounded pretty scary to me, especially when he described how the water rushed out of the lock on the downriver side. He was also nice enough to send me a picture of their canoe entering one of the five locks they had to navigate through on this trip. Christopher told me of their experience of camping on an island the night before during a hard storm, and how glad he was that his father had secured the canoe for the night so that it didn't end up floating downriver without them.

     I guess the real reason I was so fascinated by these guys was that I have often dreamed about doing just what these two men were doing, taking a canoe trip downriver, camping and fishing along the way. Part of my frontiersman fantasy! Meeting these two gentlemen reminded me of a book I had read some years ago, entitled 99 days on the Yukon: An account of what was seen and heard in the company of Charles A. Wolf, gentleman canoeist . I was 19 years old living in Alaska, and although I've had many outdoor adventures this is something I have yet to do. Talking with Mr. Webb inspired me to think that I might yet have a river trip of my own. But in any case, I hope some day to look down at the river and see these two paddling in to the landing once again on another one of their own river living adventures.

(c) copyright 2010 Travelin' West Virginia All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent. For more information send an e-mail to trvlnwv@live.com


  1. ~wow..this is so cool..and great that a father and son are sharing this...smile..isabelle

  2. John/Connie: i was reading this and remembering when we were young my dad had a boat and we would get on the boat at ravenswood and go to kentucky to met family and camp on the island for the weekend and come back up the river on sunday. when we went through the locks/dam each of us had a job to do. mom said the guys who worked on the locks/dam would stop and stare at us because here were these four small children getting right to work securing this boat. those were some good times. makes me miss my dad!!!
    Angela Norris

  3. Found a link on Facebook to your blog. I left West (by God) Virginia in 1968 and regrettably have only been back to attend funerals.

    I love this site and your dedication to the memories of that beautiful state. I have bookmarked you and have become a "follower."