This picture, taken several years ago, show Marshall Rabil, in the purple kayak, as he waits for the people with him. Behind is Dr. Mercer Neale, headmaster at Southampton Academy. The late Barry Nolf, left, readies to push a student into the water. The three others behind them are more academy students, who were then part of an outdoor expedition club, which Toni Nolf said is how the river tours got started. -- SUBMITTED/TONI NOLF
This picture, taken several years ago, show Marshall Rabil, in the purple kayak, as he waits for the people with him. Behind is Dr. Mercer Neale, headmaster at Southampton Academy. The late Barry Nolf, left, readies to push a student into the water. The three others behind them are more academy students, who were then part of an outdoor expedition club, which Toni Nolf said is how the river tours got started. -- SUBMITTED/TONI NOLF

Archived Story

River guides paddling in new location

Published 9:59am Wednesday, July 3, 2013

COURTLAND—Blackwater Outfitters/Nottoway River Guides is getting settled in its new location at 22225 Main St., Courtland. While there’s still work to be done in the back, the showroom displays a variety of kayaks, paddles and other equipment and accessories in a space that owner Toni Nolf said is twice the size of the former Franklin site.

Toni Nolf, center, is the owner of Blackwater Outfitters/Nottoway River Guides, which recently moved to Courtland. With her are Lisa Tiff, staff employee, and Tim McCormick, store manager. Several other people also assist by giving river tours. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES/TIDEWATER NEWS
Toni Nolf, center, is the owner of Blackwater Outfitters/Nottoway River Guides, which recently moved to Courtland. With her are Lisa Tiff, staff employee, and Tim McCormick, store manager. Several other people also assist by giving river tours. — STEPHEN H. COWLES/TIDEWATER NEWS

“I wanted to own the building,” Nolf said about why she moved the business. Convenience was another factor, as being closer to the Nottoway means no longer having to drive customers all the way from Franklin to the river and back.

While Nolf is glad the paper mill is back in business and more people are employed, she said the factory’s reopening “changed the whole experience” of being on the Blackwater River. “We are here more anyway,” said Nolf of the Nottoway.

The search for a new site began last Veterans Day, and she closed on the Franklin location on March 8. There’s no set date for any kind of official opening.

“I love being in Courtland,” she said, “Lots of people in the Franklin and Southampton communities helped us make this work.”

The business sells and rents kayaks, canoes and accessories, including life preservers and bug repellent. Repairs to dents can be done, as well as installations for rigging and fishing poles. Tackle and live bait are also available.

Tours are perhaps the biggest feature the business offers customers, however.

“Our priority is getting them in the river,” Nolf said. She added she has a new vision of setting up a shuttle system up and down the Nottoway, so people can hop on or off in five- to nine-mile increments.

As far back as late 2009, Nolf and her husband, the late Barry Nolf, were leading guided kayak tours. With the help of Marshall Rabil and Bobby Tyler, the couple opened their shop in downtown Franklin in spring 2011, and enjoyed success together.

Unfortunately, Barry became severely ill last spring, and died in June.

On the company’s website is written: “His love of the outdoors, his kindness, and his enthusiasm is greatly missed by all who knew him… Those of us he left behind rallied together to keep Blackwater Outfitters/Nottoway River Guides going. Thank you for your help in supporting our efforts to keep Barry’s legacy alive.”

Working with Nolf to continue both the business and Barry’s memory is Tim McCormick, who is the store manager. Although he’s native of Tennessee, McCormick said he grew up around the area.

“I floated into this job,” he said. “It suits me.”

McCormick explained that as an environmental scientist he’s able to apply what he’s learned. While giving tours, McCormick – who also has a background in botanicals – can point out rare plants and trees in the ecosystem.

“There’s always something to see,” he said.

Also on the team are Lisa Tiff, Hattie Francis, Will Berryman, Trey McGrath and Jill Gorgei. Nolf said it takes all those people and herself to logistically keep things going.

Blackwater Outfitters is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 653-9223 or visit www.blackwateroutfittersva.com

Editor's Picks