Access Week: Open Richmond’s canals to paddlers

Build a dock behind the "Cross" monument and the Haxall Canal is in businessPhil 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. This is Day 4 as James River News Hub tackles the topic of access points.

The canals in Richmond should be opened up for paddlers to connect parks and existing  access points. Paddlers could form circuits where one could park at a given parking lot, either paddle down river or up the canal, make a run and paddle back to their vehicle.

The term “greenway” in urban planning is the concept of connecting the city and its citizens through urban corridors of green. Connecting via waterway is considered a “blueway” and the would be the perfect way to creat two-way traffic.

I’ve written and detailed extensively plans for paddling in the Haxall Canal, which would connect Pipeline Rapids from behind the Christopher Newport’s “Cross” on Canal Walk to the western end of Brown’s Island and put back in the water at Tredegar Beach, 100 feet away. White water paddlers could do that circuit all day and I’ve had many tell me they love the concept. The distance is only half a mile and would just require the construction of a dock behind “Cross.”

Some dedicated paddlers already carry or push their kayaks on the catwalk railings back up over Pipeline to make the run again.

Secondly, open up the canal behind Dominion at Oregon Hill to form a circuit for paddlers from Tredegar to Pump House Park. I’ve done field research by scouting some of the land one might see along the canal. That one might be a tougher sell to CSX and would require a lot more effort for the paddlers to get about two miles up river.

The keys to both will be getting a large entity (CSX and Venture Richmond) to see the benefit of allowing this. Opening the Haxall Canal seems too easy to ignore and should have already been granted long ago. CSX has a 50-foot right-of-way on each side of the railroad tracks, which were mostly laid on the old towpaths of the canal. That means that the canals and the water within them are under their control.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be cool and grant permission, but it would take a movement. Let’s get one started Richmond!

Do you want this? What would it take to happen? Would this give Richmond a huge economic boost as an outdoor sports draw?

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. Want to make a difference? Join one of these groups!


10 responses to “Access Week: Open Richmond’s canals to paddlers

  1. Pingback: Hills and Heights » Getting to the James - Richmond, Virginia

  2. Love it! As a 29-year-old native Richmonder, I’m so sad that I didn’t really “discover” the river until just a few years ago. The city and surrounding localities need to do more to improve access. It really should be a priority. As you said, this creates easy economic benefits! Plus, it adds to our quality of life.

  3. Great idea!!! My wife and I consider the James our “home” river. We drive from Yorktown to paddle the downtown section from Reedy Creek to 14th St. at least once a month. Opening the canal would prove to be a major convenience to us by eliminating the hassle of setting shuttle.

  4. From Nutter at
    “I like your idea about paddling the canals. I oftenthought it would be really cool, if we could use the water in the canal to make a big everflowing play wave, maybe at great ship lock park.. Lots of water stored in the canal and a 30 foot drop to the river below… But I know this is just a dream and will never happen.”

  5. I lust after the canals and dream of kayaking on them every time I cross the Huguenot Bridge and look down and see the canal. Some of us who kayak don’t want to fight currents and aren’t skilled or brave enough to do rapids but love getting out on flat water and enjoying the birds, animals and scenery. I would love to see all of the canal cleaned up available for paddlin’.

  6. How would this work with the Reynolds building sale? Is there a hope the new tenannt would be friendly to outdoors and build a dock? I see that canal all the time from Black Finn — that would be cool to kayak in the canal.

  7. I wonder how the kayakers and canal boats would interact or would that section be off limits.

    • I think he’s talking about the Haxall Canal, which runs along Brown’s Island and is separated from the lower portion of Canal Walk. It splits at 12th and Byrd Streets at the Cross monument.

  8. It would seem the canals are suitable for olympic, sprint, and marathon canoe and kayak training.
    I also think seeing paddlers on the canals would add to the attraction of the area to tourists. It might also attract a rental operation for folks that would rather power themselves than ride the canal boat.

  9. Pingback: Oregon Hill » Open The Canal – From “Access Week” On James River News Hub - Richmond, Virginia

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