The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Big Reed Island Creek - Backroads Tour

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2011

Issue: September 1983

This month our BACKROADS column will take you into one of the most beautiful areas of Carroll County, Virginia. We will follow Big Reed Island Creek for almost 6 miles. At times it will be over 200 feet wide with islands, some as large as several acres, standing high and dry against the swirling white water rapids.

We’ll pass old farms and mills that are so picturesque you’ll regret it if you don’t bring your camera. Wild flowers are in abundance and the river banks are teeming with wildlife. Everything from rabbits and deer to an occasional mink or muskrat can be seen. Due to the remoteness of this area, it offers sanctuary to one of the largest black bear populations in this area. Don’t worry, black bears in the wild are extremely shy and the most you’re apt to see will be an occasional track.

We will start our tour at the intersection of US 58 and US 221, in Hillsville, Virginia. This intersection is 21.2 miles west of Meadows of Dan, Virginia, where the Blue Ridge Parkway crosses US 58 and is three-tenths of a mile east of the intersection of US 52 and US 58 in Hillsville.

BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers at the beginning of each paragraph indicate the total number of miles we've traveled from our point of beginning. The numbers in parenthesis ( ) indicate the distance from the last point of interest that we passed.

The total drive will consist of 34.7 miles. We recommend you allow at least two hours for this drive. It’s so beautiful and there’s much to stop and see along the way you might want to allot more time.

00.0 (0.0) We will begin at the stoplight at the intersection of US 58 and US 221 in Hillsville, Virginia, we will head north towards Floyd and Roanoke, Virginia on US 221.

01.5 (1.5) Here we turn left on Route 100 toward Dublin, Virginia and the West Virginia Turnpike.

05.4 (3.9) Turn right off Route 100 onto State Road 783. This is a small road so you’ll have to keep careful watch for it. There will be a small white sign pointing towards Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church.

06.1 (0.7) Turn right onto Sate Road 753.

06.6 (0.5) On the left is R-J Ranch Campground. The day we checked our mileage for this tour, the kids decided to spend the day on the waterslides, paddle boats and driving boards at R-J Ranch. It is a deluxe facility and is open for the enjoyment of non-campers and campers alike.

11.5 (4.9) Turn left onto State Road 611. There will be an old store building on our left and the sign over the door indicates it was “Mrs. J.W. Marshall’s Store.”

12.6 (1.1) This beautiful old building on the left is the old “Silver Star Roller Mill.” It is no longer in use but it has retained it’s charm throughout the years.

13.2 (0.6) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto State Road 764.

13.6 (0.4) Here we will turn left onto State Road 761.

14.1 (0.5) Turn right onto State Road 765.

14.9 (0.8) State Road 765 is a winding little gravel road and at this point, there is a wide shoulder on the left, next to a fence. Two walnut trees stand by the fence which surrounds a beautiful little valley below. Old chestnut rails line the opposite side of the road and little sprigs of chicory are blooming by the road and down the hillsides.

15.9 (1.0) The cemetery on the left is a part of the old Sutphin plantation and many Sutphins are buried there. I walked through it and saw some graves so old they were only marked with a rock. The first headstone I read was one of a confederate soldier. The oldest date I saw was on Drusilla Sutphin’s grave. The marker said she died July 11, 1884 at the age of 85. This area used to be a thriving community and was known as “Sutphin Town.”

17.6 (1.7) Big Reed Island Creek is on the left. From this point on, we will wind along within sight of the river for almost 6 miles.

18.1 (0.5) At this stop sign, turn left onto State Road 764.

18.4 (0.3) The beautiful cabin across the river can be reached by boat only. The day we checked the mileage, a deer was grazing in the meadow just below the cabin.

19.0 (0.6) Here is a bridge with just enough room to park on the side of the road before you cross it. There is a huge rock between the road and the river which has a small path leading to it. From this rock, the view of the cascading rapids is breathtaking.

20.3 (1.3) Here on the left is a suspension foot bridge that is well over 100 feet long. It is in disrepair now but once it led to a home across the river.

21.0 (0.7) Here we enter Pulaski and leave Carroll County.

22.6 (1.6) You’ll have to look closely, but to our left, in the center of the river are huge concrete pillars that once supported a railroad line leading to an old iron mine across the river.

23.3 (0.7) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto State Road 693 and cross the beautiful old one lane steel bridge.

23.8 (0.5) Here we enter Carroll County and leave Pulaski County.

24.1 (0.3) Turn left onto State Road 751.

24.2 (0.1) Isn’t that a beautiful old house on the right?

25.1 (0.9) Turn right onto State Road 752.

26.2 (1.1) The beautiful old rock church on the left is the Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church. The Reverend Robert Childress, whom the book The Man Who Moved A Mountain was written about, was once the pastor here.

28.4 (2.2) At this stop sign, we turn left on State Road 783.

29.3 (0.9) At this stop sign we are back to Route 100, where we turn left. At the intersection of Route 100 and US 221 we will turn right toward Hillsville, Virginia.

34.7 (5.4) We are back to our point of beginning at the intersection of US 58 and US 221 in Hillsville, Virginia.

We hope you have enjoyed this beautiful drive through “The Heart Of The Blue Ridge.”

backroad 1Big Reed Island creek viewed from look out rock mentioned at mileage point 19.0.

backroad 2Old steel, one -lane bridge at mileage point 23.3. It spans the Big Reed Island Creek.

backroad 3The old Silver Star Roller Mill at mile 12.6.

backroad 4nSutphin Cemetery at mile 15.9.

backroad 5nAn old abandoned home at mile 24.2.

 backroad 6nCabin at mile 18.4.

backroad 7nSuspension bridge at mile mile 20.3.

backroad 8nThis photo was received via email from Rodger Marshall who lives in Illinois. He wrote, “here is the picture of the bridge and my grandfather. His name was James Tipton Young. He lived on Big Reed Island Creek in Carroll County, Virginia.” Mr. Marshall had seen our photo of the old suspension bridge above and recognized it as the one leading to his grandfather’s home.