Paddle your way to prizes all while learning about Virginia's great outdoors

Posted at 10:39 AM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-12 10:42:45-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — In our CBS 6 Building Better Minds reports we’re usually in the classroom. But this summer, there is so much to learn in the great outdoors.

Virginia State Parks have a new program that not only teaches you about nature, but rewards you for it.

At Pocahontas State Park, the classroom is nearly 8,000 acres. And right in the middle is Swift Creek Lake.

“I think one of the best ways to really get to know our woods and our waters and the wildlife and plants that call it home, is being on the water itself," said Christen Miller, Visitor Experience Director for Virginia State Parks.

"You have a blue heron's eye view of the park."

31 Virginia State Parks are offering the Wandering Waters Paddle Quest. You can explore the water through a mixture of ranger-guided programs and self-led adventures.

You can use park rental equipment or personal gear, including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards or paddle boats.

Guide Sammy Zambon will tell you it's a great way to learn about nature.

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Guide Sammy Zambon (left) and CBS 6 Anchor Rob Cardwell (right) in Pocahontas State Park

"You can sneak right up on wildlife in our boats. So that, uh, they don't usually flush until you get up close. Seeing bald eagles, osprey, great blue heron. If I'm someplace on one of the rivers, there's a lot of historic features," said Zambon.

“You're never too young and you're never too old to learn about protecting this sacred resource," said Miller.

Just ask Debbie Roudabush, who enjoyed a morning kayak paddle. She’s having fun while learning.

"I love the birds and the fish and the people that I meet," said Roudabush. “The quiet you get in a kayak. No motor. No noise."

Miller said the great outdoors can be a great classroom. "When we get them out on the water and we can have these conversations in this really fun recreational way, we can just give them this little bit of the story of our parks. That really lets them see how they are part of nature and nature is part of them."

You can create an account on the state park adventures website. Log each paddle and you can collect prizes. They include a sticker, patch, mesh gear bag and a cellphone dry bag.

And if you complete the challenge by paddling at all 31 parks, you get a Virginia State Park certificate.

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