Updated: Dec 22, 2022
As per the 2-5 year strategic plan, this was the second organization that the president of ASTC worked with temporarily. The time period was April - October, 2022. He was a Shuttle Driver - River Host. He highly recommends this location for those who wish to learn about a nature based tourism enterprise. The owners are very open about their business model. One of the biggest assets of TRO is the great staff that returns yearly. TRO offers great employe benits for those who enjoy the river and camping (see below). Their pay is fair for the region. It's a fast pace environment that allows you to help tourist feel welcomed, yet there is down time in the evenings when you can talk with your peers, customers, and enjoy the sites of the river and Buchanan. They start hiring as early as February.
Twin River Outfitters (TRO).
Established about 18 years ago, Twin River Outfitters is the Upper James River Outfitter for those who are interested in tubing, day trips, multi-day trips, and camping.
The name comes from the Twin brothers, Dan and John. They served in the US Navy Reserve as SEABEES. Upon retirement, they bought out a river outfitter business and have been working every year to improve services and revenue. Roughly 11 years ago the business was moved to Buchanan.
Twin River Outfitters speciliazes in logistics, rentals, and camping for the 63.7 miles of the Upper James River. They have acess to 4 camp sites along the Upper James. They supplement their sales revenue with roughly 50 minute tubing trips and merchandice from their store front. The TRO business model is mostly focused on scale or volume sales.
Buchanan is 32 minutes from Downtown Roanoke, and 62 minutes from Lynchburg. See this map for more local details.
Every year TRO works with local stakeholders to remove tires from The Upper James River. Please read this Roanoke Times article for more details.
TRO allows volunteers to stage their gear that monitors the water quality on their location.
TRO is a huge draw for the town of Buchanan during their months of operation (April -October). TRO is a great organization for entrepreneurs to work with to offer tourism services. Such examples include, Travel Specialists, Guides, Tour packages, and Transporters.
Also, if properly marketing by Roanoke, it would actually draw more tourists to the Star City.
The Boy Scouts of America and various summer camp organizations use the services of TRO.
As mentioned above, TRO is designed to handle high volume activity. This in turn keeps their prices very afordable for trip planners who are finicially constrained.
Employees may rent equipment at no charge, can take shuttles at no charge, and stay at camp grounds for no charge.
TRO will let church groups use their private concrete boat launch for baptisms.
Although TRO does not advertise guided trips they will consider and offer such services on a case by case bases. The vast majority of the Upper James is class 1 and 2 rapids, so it's ideal for beginners.
TRO offers excellent shuttle services. Customers drive into the parking lot and staff help customers load up their boat on one of the many trailers. These boats are treated with extra care. When you visit their website, look for "private boater." They also follow customers to the Arcadia public boat launch and drive them back so tourists can float to their vehicles.
T-Shirts. Foot wear. Snacks. Paddles. Life Jackets. Hats. Sun Screen. Dry Boxes. Dry Bags. Straps. Some camping supplies.
Here is where TRO really shines. Nearly all campers and customers rent from their large fleet of canoes and kayaks. For those who need a shuttle with their rental, you can pay a little extra for a Day Trip to three locations.
Camping is huge with TRO. Some customers plan these trips months and years in advance. Indeed, some folks have been coming for years. Some campgrounds allow customers to drive their personal vehicles into. Horeshoe Bend is the location you need to float to.
TRO offers two types of camping. You bring your own tent or hammock, or you stay in a stand up tent with cots. All campgrounds are right off the river and have fire-pits, portal johns, and have options to purchase fire wood. 3 or 5.5 gallon water jugs are dropped off for customers by staff at no charge. For an extra fee you can get a kitchen set with dishes and a meal.
Service hours: Everyday. 9:00am-5:00pm. April-October.
TRO has a link to a real time river guage (Buchanan) to help trip planners. They also disclose when services are stopped at certain high water levels, and give full refunds when these events happen (usally in the spring).
They are also great at being flexable with customers, which is motivating.
Each day trip and overnight trip recieves a map briefing (with hand held map included) that offers very helpful information for new river recreationist. Some of the staff who do these briefings have many years of experience on the Upper James.
The region has invested a lot of money in the many public river access points. The big time stakeholder is the James River Association. TRO hosts trips for this 501(c)(3). To learn more about about this nonproft, visit charity navigator.
As mentioned, TRO also lets river quality monitors leave their gear in the canoe barn so that they can routinely take water samples.
TRO and the Wilderness Canoe Company have a friendly relationship. Often times customers will leave the Arcadia camp ground and float down to this private organization located in Natural Bridge Station and then switch over to kayaks, or end their trip. Soon after the Wilderness Canoe Company there are class 3 rapids at Balcany falls (where the Maury River joins the James). See this excellent map for more details.
The outlook for TRO looks excellent. The owners are continously putting profits back into the business which in turn creates more jobs and tourism opportunities. The location is excellent. More and more folks are moving to Botetourt County. The president of ASTC beliefs its just a matter of time before a person or organization makes Dan and John an offer they can't refuse and buys them out.
Although TRO is constantly improving, the president did notice a few low hanging pieces of fruit.
1. Extend tubing hours by four hours during the peak summer months of June, July, and August. Three staff members show up to work in the afternoon and help the current staff take a lunch break. After 5:00pm, these 3 staff members work the register, drive the tubing bus, and give tubing orientations behind the barn and resupply the tubing bus.
2. Have a camp host at the Horsehoe Bend camp ground during busy times. These employees have many functions. Prepare boats to be launched for day trips, and help customers be launched. Clean the grounds. Help folks get off the river who are coming from Eagle Rock. Transport customer gear and even customers from Gala to Horsehoe Bend, and even Buchanan. Be on call to help customers who get hung up on rocks (this is uncommon).
3. Offer gear lockers at each camp site at Horsehoe Bend and Gala. Often times customers will stage gear at a camp site before floating down later in the day. Sometimes other customers are still present at the camp site. Having a gear locker will allow folks to secure food and other belongs to prevent wildlife habituation. Note, fo 2022, there was never any complaints about bears at any of the camp sites that the president was aware of.
4. Add a 14 passenger van to the fleet and give tourists who don't have a car access to Buchanan. There is a staggering amount of fun things to do in the region. Not everyone in the family wants to stay in the city. This service is for folks who visit the region from airports, bus staions, train stops, and locals who don't have access to a vehicle. TRO offers up to 4 nights of camping! A friend or family member might be able to meet them on the river for the last night and they can leave together in their own car or rental. Ideally, a Travel Specialist would make a touring package or be the middle man for such services, but for some reason reginal tourism stakeholders don't interact with travel specialists. Please see this blog to read more.
5. Update the website to show case all of the tires that have been cleaned out of the river. Many potential tourist are interested in only visiting sustainable models. TRO has helped clean up thousands of tires over the many years.
If we have made any mistakes in this write up, or if we need to update any information, please let us know. Thank you.
Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration.