Tag Archives: Main Area

Ralph White: Meadows ‘rare natural areas in urban settings’

Loni Eddy and her children Noah and Grace plant wildflower seeds at Reedy CreekA dozen volunteers from HandsOn Greater Richmond did something Saturday that might help bring more butterflies to the James River Park — they planted wildflowers in two meadows at Reedy Creek near the visitor center and along Riverside Drive. Continue reading


Trail reroute cutting erosion, lengthening popular Buttermilk

One of the new switchbacks being put into place in the new reroute of the Buttermilk TrailThe Buttermilk Trail is being reworking in the Main Area of the James River Park below the 42nd Street intersection with Riverside Drive. The small parking area on the eastbound side of the Riverside has had a steep and slippery trail that runs straight down the hill to connect to the Buttermilk. Continue reading

Hiking into the virgin snow of James River Park

Snowy boulders in the James River near Archer IslandThe James River Park is a four-season park for so many Richmonders. Of course, the warmer summer months are the peak traffic time to the park for most visitors, but each season provides its own unique features.

Snowy staircase to 42nd Street IslandI went for a hike in the Main Area of the park from the 43rd Street walkway down to Archer and 42nd Street islands and along a portion of the Buttermilk Trail to the quarry.

Snow-covered staircase and bike ramp on the Buttermilk TrailWhen it is snowy and cold, the James is often a place of solitude for those that want to experience nature to themselves. There is something special about seeing virgin snow covering a landscape, and there are many areas of the James River Park that can give an adventurous hiker the chance to explore unblemished territory.

The creaking of trees rubbing together and blowing in the wind. Birds chirping. The rushing of the river as it passes through the Mitchell’s Gut Class II whitewater. And, of course, the occasional drone of a passing train. These are the best sounds of the park in winter.

20-foot icicles dripping from boulders in the quarry below Riverside DriveWater seeping between the many large boulders and bedrock that form the hillsides just feet away from Riverside Drive created 20-foot icicles and drips along trails such as along the Buttermilk Trail on the south side of the James provided more dramatic scenery. Huge granite boulders covered in a blanket of white along the shoreline and frozen creeks, sheets of ice in shallow areas and ice sculptures clinging to driftwood are other highlights.

A word of caution when you visit the park under these conditions. Be prepared in case you get too cold. Take back up gloves and/or footwear. Take a cell phone. Know where you are. Snow and ice can cover hidden holes into water or you could slip on ice that might be tough to spot.

RIVER RANT: How to protect the Reedy Creek parking lot?

Reedy Creek parking lot, viewed from Riverside DriveThe Reedy Creek parking area in the Main Section of the James River Park System has a reputation for car break-ins. For all the paddlers that either put-in or take-out at Reedy Creek; bikers and hikers that hit the Buttermilk Trail; dog-walkers that walk the gravel path near the visitor’s center; there may be an improvement to the situation.

Broken car window glass in Reedy Creek parking lotThere is good potential for cameras to be installed in the Reedy Creek parking lot, which could have a great impact on improving the safety of the vehicles people leave while they play at the James. The parking lot is notorious in part because it is hidden from view from traffic on Riverside Drive and the houses above the lot. People often leave their cars for hours in the lot, and are easy prey for would-be robbers.

Reedy Creek parking lotCameras could also have an impact on Hillcrest Road, which ends at the entrance to Reedy Creek and has for years been the safer choice for people that fear parking in the hidden parking lot below.

Have you ever had a break-in in the Reedy Creek parking lot? Would you be in favor of installing security cameras? How bad is the parking lot in your estimation?

Best walks to see fall foliage in James River Park

Autumn leaves on Williams Island from Pony PastureThere are four areas of the James River Park System that provide opportunities for long walks when you’re seeking autumn leaves in a natural setting.

Pony Pasture Rapids Park and the adjoining park, The Wetlands, are great places to walk and the views of the wild river are tough to beat. The bonus is the interior of the trails. There are many hardwoods and plenty of winding trails to satisfy your color-seeking desires. The views across the river to Williams Island and the north side of the James are colorful as well. Continue west on Riverside Drive to Riverside Meadows toward Huguenot Flatwater for a longer scenic walk.

Leaf at Pony Pasture Rapids ParkThe Main Section of the James River Park (42nd Street to some) from Boulevard Bridge to Belle Isle has one long primary trail along portions of the southern banks of the James. The hardwoods here are dominated by Sycamore, which tend to drop their leaves earlier than most, but the views across the river more than make up for the missing leaves. When the water is low, you can stroll out the thousands of granite boulders to get more points of view.

And what you’d see across the river is North Bank Park. It is much more rustic and remote than the previously mentioned properties, but the parks’ location on the north bank of the James means the sunlight is less interrupted and/or blocked by the hillsides above the parks along Westover Hills and Stratford Hills, as this is the time of year the sun is in the southern hemisphere. 

You can never go wrong with a visit to Belle Isle in downtown Richmond. Just walking along the northern portion of the trail loop around the island is great, as you’d be able to see the colorful hillside of Hollywood Cemetery looming atop the banks across the river.

Caution: Watch out for mountain bikers in North Bank on the North Trail and if you choose to walk along the Buttermilk Trail in the Main Section.

The peak of fall colors for the Richmond area is usually in early November, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Keith, Schaefer gave us James River Park

Plaque honoring John W. Keith, Jr., and Charles J. Schaefer John W. Keith, Jr., and Charles J. Schaefer were friends who investigated the ownership of many islands in the river and parcels along the river in the 1960’s, hoping to make the river more accessible to the public. After much research and legal work, Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Keith eventually became the owners of several islands in and parcels along the river within the city limits.

In 1972, they donated the land to the city of Richmond so it could become the first piece of the James River Park System, which has grown to more than 500 acres. The conservation easement that was passed last year could not have been put in place without the foresight and generosity of these two men.

There is a granite and bronze marker honoring them at the bottom of the 42nd Street tower in the James River Park System’s Main Section.