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Natural Fun

Top 10 things to do on, in, or at the river


by Kate Vinnedge

Photo by Will Fisher


There’s only one city in the entire country where you can tackle class III and IV rapids in an urban setting - our river city, Richmond. When it comes to natural adventure and fun, the James is the crowning glory of RVA - and with that, there’s a lot to do - whether you’re in it, or near it.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 things to do on, at, or in the river:

Relax at Huguenot Flatwater

Located right next to the Huguenot bridge on the south bank of the river, this area of the James River Park System offers hiking, boating, fishing, and swimming. Get a great view of the Old Westham Bridge, watch the beautiful wildlife that calls the James home, or relax on your inner tube.

Adventure at William’s Island

One of the more wild locations of the James River Park System, Williams Island is a 95-acre island that connects the Z-dam and the smaller northern dam. Once home to black bears, and an albino deer, you’ll find raccoons, muskrat, and wild turkey here. Fishing is the most popular reason to visit this island.

Chill out at Riverside Meadows

Across from William’s Island is Riverside Meadows, on the north side of the James. This small park is great for posting up for an afternoon - grill, climb trees, catch a glimpse of otters, bald eagles, and great blue herons, do some fishing, or even launch your kayak from here to run the rapids.

Get off the beaten path under the Atlantic Coast Line Bridge

Down Riverside Drive, on the 5300 block, you’ll find the trailhead to the Atlantic Coast Line Bridge - after a hike and crossing the train tracks, you’ll find gorgeous views of the south side banks of the James, and amazing swimming holes. If your favorite part of visiting the river is boulder hopping, you’re in for a treat!

Find inner peace at Reedy Creek

You’ll find the entrance to this gorgeous portion of the river at 42nd street and Riverside Drive. Perfect for boulder hopping, tubing, or hiking, this portion of the JRPS links up to the Buttermilk Trail, and is a great place for picnics.

Conquer the river with Riverside Outfitters

Whitewater rafting, kayaking, tubing, or paddle boarding, Riverside Outfitters offers it all! Available for group outings, or even rentals from Brown’s Isle, Riverside Outfitters can enhance any river day.

Embrace nature at the Wetlands

Just a short stroll from Pony Pasture Park, the Wetlands offers nature-watching, hiking, and a small beach along the James’ bank. Here, you’ll find a meadow surrounded by a swamp forest, and a pond with wildlife viewing blinds. Three trails connect the park to the other locations of the James River Park System.

Relive history at the Pumphouse Park

The park that surrounds this beautiful Victorian Gothic style structure that once served as Richmond’s pump house features bridges that cut across the three canals that lead from the Pumphouse. While not always open to the public, the are occasional tours given of the Pumphouse itself.

Floodwall Park

This portion of the JRPS offers unique views of the river city. Connecting Manchester to the city itself, this trail connects to the Richmond Slave Trail, the Canal Walk, and the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge.

Get something to eat at Casa Del Barco

Right at the end (or beginning) of the canal walk, you’ll find Casa Del Barco. Enjoy Mexican-inspired cuisine made from fresh and local ingredients, and delicious, inventive cocktails at their bar, indoor, or outdoor seating.


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