Letter to the Editor: Kayakers evicted from unposted island


Front Royal may bill itself as the Canoe Capital, but Warren County is clearly not the river camping capital of Virginia.

On Columbus Day weekend I took two 13-year-old boys in kayaks for an overnight trip from Front Royal. I have taken my son canoe camping on the Shenandoah River every year since he was 3, showing him the beauty of Virginia, teaching him to read the water with a paddler’s eye and appreciate the wildlife along the shore.

We’ve always camped on unposted islands without problem. This year, we took one of his friends. It was great to see them willingly leave their electronics behind and put a paddle in their hands. An hour before sunset, we approached an unposted island with clear tracks showing where previous boats had been pulled from the water. We set up camp, cooked over a camp stove, ate and cleaned up before bed.

An hour after sunset, representatives of the Shenandoah Farms landowners association splashed across the river and told us we had to leave or they would call the police. We did not have a campfire; the boys were nestled in their tent. When I puzzled over how to recognize that an unposted island was private (given that many islands are not private), I was told that they would put up signs sometime soon.

Meanwhile, we had to break camp in the dark and wade across the river to the nearby road with our hastily bundled equipment and boats. Fortunately, we were given a ride to our car. So, what started as a beautiful float on the river became a destroyed camping trip because a landowner’s association failed to post island land but enforced its right to evict people that were not disruptive.

I have years (literally) of camping experience in over 40 countries and am always discreet and respectful of the land and people nearby. I have been evicted from a campsite only twice, once by the police of communist Yugoslavia before its violent break-up and now by the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms Inc.

T’ai Roulston, Winchester