River use and recreation has been around as long as there has been rivers and man. Rivers were used a means of transportation and for shipping products elsewhere. Our local rivers the Maury (once known as the North River) and the James were no different. Canal systems were built for easier navigation along the rivers and several locks of those canal days can be found near Glasgow. Lazy Sunday afternoon paddle boat rides were a favorite pass time in the late 1890's and early 1900's.
When a power company built a dam in the Snowden area to help generate electricity, the river levels were much higher than they are today. In the 50s and 60's, a number of riverboat cabins were located along the banks of the river across from the old Balcony Falls depot. A number of locals owned motorboats and folks also loved to water ski up and down the river.
One such resident was questioned on how they got the boats in and out of the river. He noted there was a dirt ramp located just north of where the concrete ramp is today. One could back your truck and trailer with boat down the ramp and launch the boat into the river. The concrete ramp was added sometime after the 1969 flood. The 1969 flood took out the boathouses and flooded most of Glasgow leaving much destruction everywhere. Citizens met and petitioned to have that old power dam, no longer in use, at Snowden taken out to reduce further damage to homes from future flooding. It was finally decided to blast the dam and thus reduce the amount of water flow and ended an era of water recreation known at that time.
Water recreation would not die, however. Folks still liked to fish either from the banks, or from their small boats, or even wading out into the shallow waters. Folks soon began floating along the rivers on inter-tubes and later with kayaks which contributed to a brand-new love of water recreation. That concrete ramp became the way to get one’s kayak in the water, then you had to maneuver some tricky rapids at the confluence of the Maury and James Rivers to get to the more navigable waters on the other side to travel downstream towards Snowden. On one such outing, in early 2000 a young lady flipped her kayak and became trapped under the water and drowned. A marker was placed on the banks of the river in her memory.
It was about this time that the town and others decided there had to be a safer way to enter the river further upstream on the banks of the James, on the other side of the railroad tracks. Thus, began months of negotiations between the Town Manager, (Paul Parker), the railroad and the Game and Inland Fisheries to construct a passage under the railroad track for boaters to walk carrying their water craft, to a simple ramp for them to launch those boats into the river in an easy safe manner. There was lots of government red tape to work through, making sure no wild life in the rivers would be disturbed, getting permits and permissions, etc.
The passage under the railroad was constructed, but Paul Parker, who only served as manager 2013-2014, resigned his position before the project could be completed. The late Bill Rolfe who had served as interim manager before Paul, was asked to come back as interim manager again, and later became the part time manager. During the early part of his tenure he was able to fast-forward the paperwork, and with the help of members of the town staff, Chris Flint and Jeff Rankin, and someone who helped dig out the ramp area, the wooden-and-rock stair-step style ramp was completed around 2015.
At the end on Jarvis Trail
Glasgow, VA 24555