Roanoke River, streams branded as Roanoke River Blueway

Marketing includes maps, online guides to make it easier to get on the water

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - The Roanoke River offers plenty of outdoor opportunities, but do you know the best spots to visit for a great day on the water? If you don't, you're not alone. That's why there's a new project to answer that question and, hopefully, to change the face of the river.

Roanoke is one of the lucky cities across America to have an accessible river. But a lot of people don't realize just what they have here. Now there's a new marketing plan using online maps and pamphlets to make the river more accessible than ever.

When the sun shines and the water feels just right, there's bound to be someone dipping their paddle into the Roanoke River.

"We've had people from all over Europe, every state in the United States, Alaska, Canada, everywhere, so it's pretty cool to get them all out on the river," Roanoke Mountain Adventures manager Dan Lucas said.

Roanoke Mountain Adventures specializes in float trips and helping people enjoy the best of what Roanoke's outdoors scene has to offer. Water sports are especially close to their heart as they are part of how the business got its start. Over the years, RMA has helped a lot of people smile by giving them a day on the water.

"We do a lot of guiding, as far as giving people information about where they can put in, where they can take out, the best routes on the river, the safest routes, warnings and hazards they may need to know about," Lucas said.

Now, there are even more people advocating for the river they love. A joint project by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission and local governments is marketing the Roanoke River and streams as the Roanoke River Blueway. Although the river has been a part of the city since its beginning, many people don't realize how good they have it.

"Do you know that this is an opportunity that's in your backyard? Or, if you're coming from somewhere else, do you even know this is something beautiful and unique about our valley?" Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission regional planner Amanda McGee said.

An interactive online map shows where you can put in, take out and where to watch out for danger. A paper version of the map is being distributed to hotels and hot spots across the valley. Now, planning the float along the river is even easier than loading in and out.

"To get people out on the river doing what I like to do, to get people out on a bike doing what I love to do - it's really a rewarding experience, for sure," Lucas said.

A rewarding experience helping to make fun on the water easier for everyone. The project used grant money, along with local taxpayer dollars, to foot the $20,000 bill. The next phase is getting the word out. The project is using social media and plans to pass out more pamphlets soon.

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