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Talbott Reservoir off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Patrick County, Virginia is a storage reservoir for the City of Danville's Pinnacles Hydro-Electric Station located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Kibler Valley, Virginia. Water released from Talbott Dam, referred to locally in Meadows of Dan as the Upper Dam, spills into a natural stream bed before being diverted six miles downstream by Townes Dam (the Lower Dam). Both reservoirs, with Talbott being the largest, are located near the scenic Pinnacles of Dan mountain peaks rising from Dan River Gorge. Talbott Reservoir, whose waters have always been a well kept secret, are even more secluded following post 9-11 restrictions. A permit must be obtained from the Pinnacles Hydro-Electric Station before entering the property. Access is gated and a combination to the lock is provided with the permit. Hours are restricted to those between eight am and five pm. Swimming, hunting, pets, camping, firearms, alcohol, etc.... are not permitted.
While I miss the opportunity to camp in this mountain setting, the restrictions create an extremely clean, quite and undisturbed paddling experience. Almost a month into 2006, our boats were the first to put in on Talbott Reservoir. I don't know if anyone other than fishermen ever explore these waters and with only hand carried boats allowed, the number of hikers probably outnumber boaters. I grew up fishing and camping on Talbott and after twenty years, I was anxious to return.
January 28, 2006. I dropped by the Hydro-Station office during my lunch hour earlier in the week to obtain our permit and learn Talbott's new rules, as well as some of the property's recent history. Then on Saturday my buddy Jeff and I headed up the mountain, following the directions to the dam I got off the Internet. The parking area at the end of the gated drive is small, but since we were the only ones on the water, we were able to leave Jeff's van out of the way on the side of the turn-around. The put-in is a kayaker's dream, a perfect and convenient setup, yet inaccessible for anything other than hand carried boats. We unloaded the boats, snapped a few photos of the dam, then hit the water. Our unbelievable streak of good luck with the weather continued with another 60F/15C day.
We had just a fantastic afternoon on the water. Our first wildlife encounter of the day were two otters playing both in and out of the water. I then followed a small beaver across the lake to its cave. Jeff and I both had fumbling camera moments when a large curious beaver swam all the way out to our kayaks. My camera was full of otter photos and I had to try deleting photos before I could snap one. Not a problem since Jeff was videoing it. Or so we thought, it turned out that Jeff was watching a video, not taking one. I finally made room on my camera and glided close enough to the opening to snap a photo of the big guy hanging out just inside his hut. He finally got tired of watching us paddle around and went further inside his home, so we moved on further upstream to find a sunny spot for lunch.
After lunch we traded boats and paddled further up stream, eventually running out of sunshine and into ice where the Dan River was completely frozen. It was time to turn around, but not before I took several passes through the ice in Jeff's Blackwater. We then swapped boats back and made a straight forty minute paddle back to the dam. Another fantastic day out on the water. And we are definitely coming back next fall when the leaves are changing to explore even more of the lake and paddle further into its estuaries.