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James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 6.49'
Flow: 10200 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond


Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 6:18am
Low Tide: 1:00am

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Posted In: Features

Exploring Kerr Reservoir’s infinite shoreline

Leonard Adkins

July 16, 2012 9:25am


Many great blue herons call Kerr Reservoir home

Summer’s longer daylight hours provide the opportunity to do some hikes a little farther afield, so I’m going to suggest a drive of a little less than two hours south from Richmond to Kerr Reservoir, a.k.a. Buggs Island Lake, along the Virginia/North Carolina border.

The reservoir has more than 800 miles of shoreline and is managed for electrical power production, recreation, timber, environmental protection, and flood control. In addition to Occoneechee and Staunton River state parks, more than a dozen camping and recreation areas are dispersed along the shoreline (making this a nice, overnight weekend destination if you wish). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineersmaintains many Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) along the Buggs Island Lake shoreline, which provide large tracts of land to wander. In the Greenwood WMA, the marked 7.1-mile Robert Munford Trail is worth the trip.

The area receives more than 4 million visitors annually, but almost none of them (except during hunting season) take advantage of of this pathway, making it a pristine and quiet walk in the woods. Although the white-blazed route is lightly used by nearby residents and equestrians, please be aware that trail may be somewhat vague at times. Be prepared to make use of some of your route-finding abilities.

Robert Munford was a prominent 18th-century citizen of Mecklenberg County who lived on the land the trail traverses. (You’ll pass his grave a little more than a mile into the hike.) As you hike the trail, lined by dogwood, oak, sweet gum, holly, poplar, beech, pine, and cedar trees, you’ll occasionally be on narrow points of land where water is visible through the vegetation on both sides. Covering 50,000 acres, Kerr Reservoir is Virginia’s largest inland body of water. This large expanse attracts boating enthusiasts of all kinds. Near the developed campgrounds and boat ramps, scores of power boaters, water-skiers, sail boaters, and jet skiers skim across the water, seemingly trying to outdo each other in speed. Yet, from the trail you will probably only see a few canoeists or kayakers searching out hidden coves and inlets.

Bass fishing is a popular pasttime on Kerr Reservoir

The sound of your approaching footsteps may cause scores of frogs to jump into the safety of the lake or even mud puddles. Although they live much of their lives in the water, frogs don’t drink it the way people do. Instead, they have a permeable skin through which liquid and gasses can pass. Additional water comes from the food they eat and, in times of drought, they are able to redirect it back into their bodies before it becomes a waste product. The waters of the lake also make for great waterfowl watching, including ducks, mallards, herons, and Canada geese.

One of my books, 50 Hikes in Southern Virginia, provides a detailed description of the hike and well as outings in Occoneechee and Staunton River state parks.

Getting There: Unless you are willing to backtrack, this is a one-way hike, so a car shuttle will be necessary. Drive to the lower trailhead by taking I-85 Exit 12 in South Hill, follow US 58 west for 18.5 miles, turn left onto VA 756, make a right onto VA 705 .2 mile later, and continue an additional 5.1 miles to the trailhead parking on the right. Leave one car here and retrace your route for 2.7 miles, and turn left turn onto VA 823, on which the other trailhead parking will be found on the left in 2.0 miles.

About Leonard Adkins

Leonard M. Adkins has hiked more than 19,000 miles exploring the backcountry areas of the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, including his five traverses of the full length of the Appalachian Trail. He is the author of more than 17 books on the outdoors, nature, and travel; his latest is "Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including Detailed Maps, GPS, and More." Paraphrasing a famous American humorist, Leonard once said, “I never met a trail I didn’t like.” Find more about him at