An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

November 4, 2012

Diascund Reservoir - Paddling Back in Time

This past Saturday I took the kayak to Diascund Creek Reservoir in Lanexa, Virginia, just a few miles west of Williamsburg. Though this was hardly my first visit, it was the first time I have been there in almost 40 years. When I was growing up my father would take us there on weekends to fish, explore the woods, ride dirt bikes, play with the dogs and sleep on bunk beds listening to whip-poor-wills. I am really grateful he gave me the opportunity, and it is a real shame that most children today do not have a chance to spend unstructured time out-of-doors. It was a different world then, and a different place as well. To get to his hunting club's cabin you had to go down a dusty dirt road where there were few if any houses.  The soils in this part of Virginia had long ago been exhausted, and the area was mostly forest with a few abandoned houses and fallow fields sprinkled in, great places for boys to run wild.

The reservoir is one of the primary water sources for the city of Newport News, and was built by cutting down the forest and damming several adjacent creeks.  40 years ago it was still very evident there had once been a forest there, as stumps covered the bottom of the lake, but I saw little of that on my recent trip.  The water is full of fish and very clean, in fact, if you have enjoyed any Anheuser-Busch products, you may have been drinking a small part of the Diascund.  I was not surprised to see homes on the lake Saturday, but I was pleased there were so few of them, and most of the shoreline was still wooded.  However, the road to the old cabin is paved now and lined with homes, all but one or two displaying a united front in their preferences for the outcome in the upcoming election. I felt very out of place, and not that I have any rights in the matter, but it felt like an intrusion on my memories.

Dawn Gathering

Diascund Sunrise (3)

Fall Mirror

November Shore

Cypress Island (3)

Cypress Island (4)

Cypress (2)

Cypress  (2)

Cypress  (4)

Despite 40 year's worth of changes, Diascund is still a haven for wildlife, perhaps more so.  I saw river otters, several bald eagles, kingfishers, herons, jumping bass and my second pileated woodpecker in less than a month.  I know they are now something slightly less than wild, but as I was leaving, wave upon wave of Canada geese descended noisily into the water.  Their numbers were in the several hundreds.

Altered memories aside, it was a very good morning.


  1. Really lovely photos. It's always a comfort to see a place like this survive with its soul mostly intact.

  2. BEAUTIFULL pictures !!!!!

  3. Gorgeous! What a lovely time of year and a lovely place in which to savor it.

  4. Your memories brought back many of my own, Les. My nephew and I packed lunches and "hiked" around the wilder areas of Miami enjoying the plants, flowers and birds. A 7- and 6-year-old would never be allowed to do that today!

    Diascund is truly beautiful and I enjoyed tagging along with you.

  5. It is always hard to go back but I am glad you were able to be philosophical about it. The bald cypress are amazing and very interesting photographic subjects.

  6. These are such beautiful images. I love the views from the water, it is such a peaceful vantage point.

  7. Lanexa is a hidden beauty in the Tidewater area. Love it when the water is like a mirror...super photos.

  8. Oh my, that 4th shot is breath taking. You always have such gorgeous pictures though. I wish I had your eye for photography!

  9. Lovely photos Les. I regret that it's too cold now for me to go kayaking.

  10. As seems so effortless from you, yet more beautiful pictures!

    I can feel you about the candidate signs and united front -- I felt like that driving thru Charles City County (close to where you were) several times in the past few months. The fervor of some has been alienating, and I'm just glad the campaigning's over for awhile (good outcome too).

  11. Les, I love looking at your pictures. Thanks for doing this blog.

  12. That must be what Heaven looks like.

    My little nephew spends much unstructured time in the outdoors, (although necessarily ever-vigilant for bear and moose) and I hope he carries the same beautiful of the wild world with him all his life, as you have.

  13. Beautiful as alway Les.
    What is that tree with the wide trunk that seems to grow straight out of the water?

  14. Greggo,
    You are welcome.

    Yes it is good to see some survivors.

    Thank you!

    Most of the places I go are lined with marsh and pine, but for this trip I wanted to see some more typical fall color, and I was not disappointed.

    I hope you kept your eyes out for gators!

    I am glad you like the cypress, as I tend to take lots of pictures of them. I went out again yesterday and took more. You can see them on Facebook, but there will not be a blog post any time soon.

    I am always pointing my camera at the water.

    I love Lanexa too.

    That shot was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The sun was coming up just before it was to be hidden by a cloud bank, so this scene only lasted a few minutes then was gone.

    I stayed pretty warm, except for having to get my feet wet, and I have nothing to wear in the cold water.

    Thank you!

    There was such a marked difference between the truly rural parts of the state and the more urban areas. The election night images of the state showed a large mass of red punctuated with blobs of blue, but thankfully there was enough blue to tip the scale.

    I love taking the pictures and you are welcome.

    Hoover Boo,
    I hope your nephew does too.

    That tree is a bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) which is one of my favorite trees. It is native to many parts of the the southeastern US and is happy half in and half out of the water. Though it will grow in normal soil also, it does not get the knees or the flare there.


  15. Stunning photos, especially that first one. I want to run wild there too. All our leaves are down and at night there are frosts in Maine.

  16. A very good morning indeed and I enjoyed going back in time with you. It's been a long time since I've heard about whiporwills. Listening to them at night is still one of my favorite memories of camping.

  17. Those bald cypress are impressive. Even though there are more houses in the area, it's good to hear that wildlife is still thriving at the lake.

  18. Well, the way your post started out I was getting set for a loss of habitat, but your pictures belied that interpretation. Wonderful shots. As usual. As it happens my camera club just finished a competition based on waterscapes. Your photos would have ranked very well indeed...

    I tried to look up Diascund — it seemed like such an unusual name — but could find no history of the name. Any ideas?

  19. Sarah,
    I was able to get a shot of the geese waking up, but what you don't see (and I could not photograph) were the river otters.

    I remember hearing people complain about that bird keeping them up at night, but I loved it.

    They are one of my favorite trees.

    I have no ideas on the name, and I tried to look it up as well. Below the dam the creek remains unchanged and flows into the Chickahominy just west of Williamsburg.


  20. Oh My, I love these photos. I am blessed enough to enjoy this beauty daily. I live right on the reservoir and have seen the same birds and animals.

    I love the quiet, the geese, and the birds singing in the morning.

    Oh, and no signs in my yard:)

  21. Gorgeous photos & great story of your visit there. I love Diascund Reservoir & drive over from Richmond about once a month for canoeing. The place is always startlingly beautiful, no matter the time of year. Wonderful paddling this weekend in the fog. I'm amazed how many times I've seen those perfect mirror reflections - have taken many photos of them (though none as spectacular as yours!)

  22. Pam,
    You are blessed if you get to see that every day.

    Dr. D.,
    Thank you for the nice compliment. I bet that place is beautiful in the fog.