Upper James River Water Trail
Mention the James River to most people and they’ll think of Jamestown or Richmond, Virginia. After all, the river runs right through Virginia’s capital city and Jamestown has a cherished place in American history. But the James River begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains and winds through Botetourt County and across the state on its way to the Chesapeake Bay. The river offers stunning scenery, vast stretches of untouched wilderness and great fishing. As a tourism asset for outdoor lovers, however, it remained an undiscovered and underused treasure. The Botetourt County Office of Tourism and a select advisory board asked Mikula-Harris to help spread the word.
All 45 miles of the James River in Botetourt County is navigable by canoe or kayak and most of it is appropriate for tubing. While there are a few Class I and Class II rapids, the river does not offer any adrenaline-pumping whitewater. We recognized this as a means to differentiate the Upper James from other rivers in Virginia and nearby West Virginia. The brand personality and the tone of the marketing materials would promote the scenic beauty, the up-close experience with nature and the family-friendliness of the Upper James.
As with many tourism initiatives, the experience of a day on the river could best be conveyed through great photography, which became a key component of the marketing strategy. The website is beautifully designed and rich in helpful content. The ad series is powerful and the unique brochure features a handy map of the river. All of these items are anchored by stunning photography.
The brand image, website and brochure for the Upper James River Water Trail have all been warmly embraced by the community. A local newspaper did an extensive front-page feature on the campaign. Local and regional outdoor groups love the project and have helped generate so much web traffic that it temporarily crashed the host server. The site received an astonishing 1,540 visits and 5,801 page views in the first month solely from word of mouth and online buzz. The Upper James River Water Trail has received numerous local, state and national awards for the caliber of the marketing and for the trail’s major impact on promoting environmental awareness.
— John Mays, Owner/Manager, Twin River Outfitters Member, Upper James River Water Trail Advisory Board
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