High Bridge Trail is 31 miles long, and people know it for long hikes, bike rides and newly added motorized van tours. The van tours will occur every first and third Thursday of September, October and November, totaling six tours.
The High Bridge State Park conducted the first van tour on Sept. 5, according to the Virginia State Parks newsletter. The first tour group consisted of five people.
Prior to the first van tour, High Bridge hosted two practice tours in August with members of The Friends of High Bridge State Park, according to the newsletter.
Park Education Specialist Bob Flippen expanded on the practice tours, saying, “It was an appreciation gesture for all they do for us. They could go ahead and make suggestions to how things went and how they think we can improve. Moreover, I handed out comment cards, and everyone said they enjoyed it very much.”
“This tour is perfect for those who have a mobility issue and for people who are ambulatory, but unable to go great distances,” Flippen said, adding that the van tours allow the park to become more accessible to people.
There will be different themes that are individualized for every tour. The first tour was called “From the Evacuation of General Thomas Albert Smyth.” Flippen stated that Smyth was the last union general to die during the Civil War after getting wounded while approaching Farmville.
“We ride down to where he was wounded and go down [to] the hospital he was located to,” Flippen said.
The van tours stop at various points for rest breaks at areas like River Road or to better illustrate the history of the park. Disembarking at High Bridge, guests walk on it, able to view the Appomattox River, while being told the early construction of the bridge, the South Side Rail Road that used to cross the bridge and more. While on the bridge, Flippen speaks about the second battle of High Bridge on April 7, 1865 where the Union and Confederate armies attempted to set the 2,400 foot long bridge on fire.
Each van tour costs $25 per person. High Bridge Park offers guests a box lunch from Walker’s Diner, consisting of a sandwich and a couple of cookies. Guests eat their lunch at the east end of High Bridge.
Flippen said, “Shortly after lunch, we continue the tour and go a short distance and come across one of the forts. There were four forts that were built to guard the bridge. I talk a little bit about the forts and their role during the last days of the war and the different types of armaments that were used in them.”
By the end of the van tour, the guests ride to Rice, Va. where they are given the choice to either continue down the trail or to get out on the hard surface and ride to Burke’s Tavern.
Flippen added, “This is where General Smyth was taken to when his condition began to deteriorate and is where he died at 4:00 in the morning in the month of April 1865.”
The Evacuation of General Thomas Albert Smyth is just one out of the six themes the van tours hold. Other themes include the Confederate General Hospital, Stanley Park (where Lancer Park is currently located) and Tuggle.
For more information about the High Bridge Van Tours, you can contact the park office at (434) 315-0457 or email the park at firstname.lastname@example.org. gov.