The Return to Lake Moomaw

On June 13, 2015, the temperature in Richmond was 92 degrees F. We needed a place to escape the heat. This was our chance to make the return to Lake Moomaw out in the mountains of Virginia, where it was 15 degrees cooler with lows in the 60s at night. Brian worked the night previously so we left late that Saturday afternoon. For this trip, I rented an Old Town Discovery canoe 15’8″ from Riverside Outfitters in Richmond. We typically get our canoes from the VCU Outdoor Adventure center however all of theirs were taken. This trip pretty much convinced us that we need our own canoe to avoid the hassle of rental and returns.

 After a quick lunch at the Galley, we hit the road. The drive into the mountains was peaceful. We were hit with intermittent mountain rain showers as the clouds came and left.  We could already feel the cooler air as we approached the boundaries of the national forest. We passed through gorgeous passes with streams that looked perfect for Tenkara.

IMG_1288There’s always an upside to rainfall, for we were treated to an awesome display of misty mountains as we paddled to the campsite. The sun was making it’s way through the clouds and the sky was clearing before sunset. We spotted deer as they approached the lakeside to drink the cool water. I had forgotten how beautiful the lake was.

One of the advantages to paddling in Virginia is the lack of mosquitoes. NO horseflies/deerflies either! Sitting comfortably out in the open without a bug shelter in June is something we did not take for granted. We parked the canoe and enjoyed  some Woodford whiskey by the lake.

The water was especially clear that day. We saw numerous motor boats, but no other canoeists. It seems like Lake Moomaw is used mostly as a fishing and motorboating spot for the locals. All of the canoes that were available for rent were still on the racks at the marina. None of the back country campsites were occupied so we had our pick. Pretty amazing for just a $5 parking fee. We camped at a new site this time which was very clean and secluded.

The Trangia alcohol stove, produced in Sweden it was designed primarily for backpackers. I found it works well with the Emberlit stove.

The following night was a perfect opportunity for me to try out my new Trangia alcohol stove. I must say this little stove is perfect for canoe trips. There certainly is beauty in simplicity. It is built like a tank and has no moving parts to break. All you have to do is fill it with fuel (alcohol of any type) and set a spark to it. I find it makes the perfect companion to the Emberlit stove, a stick stove that I’ve used for a couple of years now. The alcohol stove burns cleanly with no soot to clean from your pots and pans. Win. With the simmer plate, we were able to grill spicy sausages to perfection.

I also had a chance to play with camera settings on the DSLR to try and capture the thousands of stars. I think it turned out pretty well for the first attempt. It was difficult without a tripod but this trip opened my eyes to the world of night landscape photography.

Lake Moomaw star show

We took the canoe out for a midnight paddle on the lake under the blanket of countless stars. It reminded me of paddling Big Trout Lake in Algonquin park at 3:00am in September 2014. With the assistance of a small amount of hand sanitizer (awesome trick) to catch a flame to the soaking wood, we were able to get a rip roaring camp fire going.

We woke the next morning and prepared some breakfast once again with the Trangia. A simple meal of scrambled eggs, brie cheese, salami, toasted bread and yogurt with blueberries and raspberries. One of the perks of lakeside camping is packing a cooler. With no portages to haul heavy gear, we could bring what we wanted. The cooler is a definitely a luxury item on canoe trips.

Overall, the return to Lake Moomaw was a very relaxing trip. No heavy portages, no rushing and no real destination. Despite the spectular views, I do not suspect that we will be back any time soon. There are numerous waterways in Virginia that I have yet to paddle and I have compiled a list of rivers and lakes that I want to explore including the Cowpasture River (claimed to be one of the most pristine rivers in Virginia). I also picked up a copy of “Virginia Whitewater” by H. Roger Corbett off of ebay. Apparently it is a must for canoeists in Virginia.

We learned a great deal on this trip and left Lake Moomaw that evening with one revelation…..we must now buy a canoe. Leading choices at this point: Nova craft prospector 16 foot in royalex or the Old Town Camper 16 foot in royalex. Both beauties.

8 thoughts on “The Return to Lake Moomaw

  1. I so enjoyed reading this! Particularly loved the header photo – what a delightful spot. And no mosquitoes…
    Definitely going to check out the Trangia stove you mentioned, sounds ideal for keeping it light.
    Enjoy the rest of your day!


    • Thanks for the kind words plaidcamper! We’ve only used the trangia a couple of times but so far it’s been great. It’s had great reviews for many years now so I figured it was tried and tested. Cheers!


  2. I’m so happy I finally found a blog post on this camping site to get some actual pictures and a feel for the area. I’ve already been to Lake Moomaw once but now I’m currently planning a camping trip to this campground. I’m going to pack it in but wanted to know how crowded it was when you were there. Any suggestions on what to bring? (I will be taking your advice on bringing some whiskey)


    • Hi Jess, funny you should write this, because you just helped me with a trip to Switzer lake today! It’s a beautiful place. Several people have asked me about Lake Moomaw before. Lake Moomaw has several backcountry sites. Basically when you get to the marina, you will have the option of going the main route (to the right) or to the lesser known route (to the left). There are primitive camping sites to the far left at McClintic point although I have never camped there before. I hear it is nice. The main primitive camping sites are at Greenwood point. Just to the west of Greenwood point, is an awesome spot that we camped at last time, it is separated from Greenwood point and its about 50 feet away. isolated and covered with trees. I have been to Moomaw twice now, and both times I have only seen 1 other person back country camping. The first time I had greenwood point all to myself and the second time there was one person at greenwood and I was at the place to the west. There are however motorboats that go around fishing during the day that can be annoying sometimes but it’s a huge lake. In terms of gear, we bring our usually canoe camping gear, a food barrel/cooler, sleeping pads, tents, layers of warm clothing, water filter, although before you launch there is an area where you can fill a water canister if you have one. If you’re an angler, then you’re in luck, it’s a place with numerous species of fish. Also your usual cooking stoves, equipment, etc. The thing is, we paddle into our site instead of hike, so all of our gear is in waterproof bags. Anyways, hopes this help. Lake moomaw rocks

      Here’s a link to a pretty good map of lake moomaw:

      Anyways, hope you enjoy your trip, let me know if theres anything else!



      • hey Benny, the paddle to greenwood point would probably be around around an hour and half?, although always leave some buffer room for the unexpected. Also make sure you got your life preservers. Have fun and be safe!


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