Access Week: Should a park be created at Bosher’s Dam?

Willey Bridge in view from the fish ladder at Bosher's DamPhil Riggan – James River News Hub

Access Week! One of the first complaints most people have when discussing the James River in Richmond is that there aren’t enough access points — places to get to the river for paddling, swimming, fishing, sunning, parking, etc.

James River News Hub is going to tackle the topic of access points to the James River in Richmond. Each day this week, we will profile and seek comments about certain properties within the Falls of the James where there is a possibility to create an access point to the river.

Bosher's Dam, viewed from the north bank at the fish ladderThe first stop is located at the beginning of the Falls of the James River: Bosher’s Dam. The dam marks the beginning the nine-mile stretch of the river in which it drops more than 100 feet in altitude as it runs through Richmond.

Other than the 12-foot drop, the water is flat on both sides of the dam. The majority of the rapids are about two miles downriver. There is no fishing allowed within 100 yards of the fish ladder, but the flatwater under the Edward E. Willey Bridge east of the dam is popular with the fishing crowd.

Fish ladder at Bosher's Dam, viewed east of the ladderThe 10 acres of land in the area around the dam is city property and under the care of the James River Park System. It is downhill from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s conference and retreat center, also known as Roslyn, located on River Road in Henrico County on the north bank of the river. The property has been discussed for many years as potentially becoming a park, but there has never been enough strong interest.

There is a portage that gives access to the flatwater west of the dam from the property. There has been mention of someday being permitted to build a road down the cleared area just west of the property under the huge power line towers to access Bosher’s Dam, as opposed to entering through the Roslyn property.  That too would involve crossing the canal and the CSX railroad tracks.

There are several key features to the property:

  • The Kanawha Canal is the north border of the property and is still filled with water and an attractive feature.
  • The fish ladder was opened in 1999 to provide fish access to more than 300 miles of traditional spawning grounds for migrating fish on the James River and its tributaries between Richmond and Lynchburg.
  • Another bonus in the spring and summer is a blue heron rookery just to the west, above the dam on the north bank. 
  • The dam. Bosher’s Dam was extensively rebuilt in 1835 to its current height of 12 feet. It was constructed to provide water power for grist mills, the Kanawha canal systems and other developments. It is a feeder dam, backing up the river so that it can flow through controlling gates and guard lock into the canal.

One big drawback is the distance to this location from the rest of the James River Park System’s parcels. It would be very time-consuming and difficult for the park to maintain on a regular basis.

So what’s the verdict? Is creating park land and public access at Bosher’s Dam worth pursuing? Is there a need to have a river access from the north bank in that area? What are the chances of Bosher’s dam becoming a park?

Your comments are valued, as members of the Friends of the James River Park, James River Outdoor Coalition and other volunteer groups that work to help maintain the river discuss these issues often and need input from dedicated river-goers. Join these groups to help make a difference.


5 responses to “Access Week: Should a park be created at Bosher’s Dam?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Access Week: Should a park be created at Bosher’s Dam? | James River News Hub --

  2. I support the idea.

    I remember being there one summer evening and being blinded by a cloud of glowing lightning bugs. Truly amazing.

  3. Pingback: Access Week: Support for boat landing under Willey Bridge? | James River News Hub

  4. I would often use an access point near the Bosher Dam on the north side of the river. It would be great to have easier access above the dam and to the canal. To me, a much more attractive option than an access point under the Willey bridge.

  5. Pingback: Access Week: Area near Pump House needs connection to James | James River News Hub

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