Enjoy the James River Paradox from Berkeley Plantation to Rockett’s Landing

     While residents know that the historic Richmond Region (now becoming simply known as RVA) was born on the James River at its falls line, the river with its limited public access still remains hidden to many.  Unless you work in one of the high-rises downtown or have to cross one of its bridges on your way to work, you probably do not think much about this body of water that fueled the imagination of our nation’s earliest explorers.

Downtown Richmond as viewed from just south of Rock Island where the falls begin

Thanks to our beloved HATH-away, we have discovered that the best way to appreciate this under-exposed gem is on its waters.

     A great way to spend a day on the James south of the falls line begins at the well-designed Osborne Boat Landing in eastern Henrico County.

With three double concrete ramps and plenty of parking for trucks pulling boat trailers, this park only seems crowded when a bass masters tournament is taking place.  Once you have put in your boat, head southeast for a little exploration.

     Traveling by Varina on the James’s north bank and River’s Bend on its south, you will soon encounter the stunning, modern

Varina-Enon Bridge.

From there, you are heading straight into the history books.  After passing by Shirley Plantation, take a left at

Hopewell’s historic City Point Park,

continue under the Benjamin Harrison bridge, cruise by Jordan’s Point and just beyond you will behold the beautiful grounds of Berkeley Plantation,

Northern edge of the Berkeley Plantation

the home of the nation’s first Thanksgiving (notwithstanding the claims of our Puritan forefathers).  While the James is a wide body of water, be sure to stay within the channel markers or you might find your engine spewing mud – quite a sinking feeling, as we recently discovered.

     Unless you want to make a day of history heading toward Jamestown where you can catch a glimpse of  the Godspeed replica and the Busch Gardens roller coasters in Williamsburg, do a 180 and head back up toward Richmond’s downtown.  If you time it right, you will arrive at Rocketts Landing just below the rocky falls line in time for lunch.

View of Rocketts Landing from the James River

With 15 transient boat slips and now a floating gas pump, Rocketts Landing encourages local boaters to drop in to visit its restaurants.

     The Richmond outpost of Conch Republic welcomes hot and wind-blown boaters to its casual perch above the slips.  No need to worry about hair and make-up in this relaxed metal and concrete watering hole.  Its full menu features temptations for everyone in your party, including my new favorite,

fried alligator bites.

     After lunch, let your passengers enjoy some water sports as you pass by green bluffs and bits of industry.

There is plenty of room to share the water with the handful of other water sport enthusiasts spending time on this part of James.  It seems so incongruous to think of John Smith exploring these parts with Pocohantas while we are enjoying the thrills of a speed boat, but that paradox helps make RVA such a fabulous place.

     While Outside Magazine has yet to crown Richmond as the Best River Town (though our capital city won the Facebook voting by a landslide),  outdoorsy types in RVA know that America’s first river is a delightful verdant surprise for all who have the opportunity to explore her hidden charms.  If Richmond makes the cover of Outside Magazine’s September issue as the Best River Town, the secret will be out, and these waters may get a bit more crowded.  In the meantime, we will continue our modern-day exploration of the historic James River.

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4 Comments on “Enjoy the James River Paradox from Berkeley Plantation to Rockett’s Landing”

  1. srktz says:

    What a wonderful tour of an area of our city that I only see from airplanes! You are starting to convince me to buy a boat! Love the pictures….starting my week with a new appreciation for our river. Thanks!

  2. Ellegram says:

    Truly I need to get out of the West End a bit more and explore our beautiful city. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. […] that Outside magazine tends to feature, we love exploring this historical water both northwest and southeast of downtown Richmond’s whitewater and sharing it with family and friends and Avad Fan […]


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