, 2014

Visitors experience marine
tourism on the Coan River

LOTTSBURGH—Seventy people aboard two James River buses recently visited Lottsburg to learn about the Virginia oyster and its habitat, cultivation and harvest.

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As the visitors on one bus pulled into the Coan River Marina to go out on two Chesapeake Bay deadrises, the other group went to Cowart Seafood Corporation to tour the oyster hatchery; the groups switched activities for the afternoon, reported Northern Neck Tourism Commission tourism coordinator Lisa Hull.

Third-generation watermen Capt. Danny Crabbe, aboard KIT II, and Capt. David Rowe, on Bay Quest, spoke about the oyster’s role in the health of the Chesapeake Bay, past years’ decline, and now resurgence, in the oyster population, and the traditions of the watermen who have worked the waters around the Northern Neck for generations.

When they demonstrated oyster tonging, several visitors were inspired to give the tongs a try, and came away from the experience with new-found appreciation for the strength and perseverance necessary to harvest and then cull oysters in preparation for market, said Hull. Visitors were interested in the concept of oyster leases and learned about the Baylor Survey of 1894, which mapped oyster beds reserved for public use.

Both Capt. Rowe and Capt. Crabbe participated in the Chesapeake Heritage Program in February, which provided training for watermen to give visitors an on-water experience that includes history, the bay’s health and the watermen’s heritage specific to the bay and its tributaries, she said.

The Chesapeake Heritage Program was funded by the Northern Neck Chesapeake Bay Region Partnership and Rappahannock Community College Workforce Development.

Friday’s events for the group were arranged by Northern Neck Heritage Tours in Heathsville, and included lunch at Luna Restaurant in Callao, and an introduction to colonial culture of the Northern Neck at Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern, a circa 1795 historical landmark, where historian Carolyn H. Jett provided insights into the area’s tobacco heritage, and several artisan guilds demonstrated blacksmithing, woodworking, spinning, and weaving.

The group spent the weekend at Tides Inn, where they experienced the river’s culinary delights with a broader recognition of the watermen’s work that makes the harvest possible.

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