Another reason I love the city of Richmond

By Tom

Summertime is a great time in the River City. I already wrote a post about the many festivals that go on throughout the Richmond region; today I want to say a bit about the thing that gives the River City its nickname: the James River.

The James flows right through the heart of Richmond, and the city was built around the river, which remains its core to this day. There aren’t any other cities in the United States that have Class IV rapids running through downtown – but Richmond does! The river provides an awesome outdoors scene right here in the in the city itself. Whether it’s kayaking, canoeing, rafting, tubing, hiking, biking, or fishing, you can find it all within city limits.

The James River Park System comprises about 14 miles of trails on both banks of the river. Hiking along these trails takes you completely out of urban space, even though you’re surrounded by it. I love hiking along the James, because you feel like you’re in the wilderness, and then you round a bend and there’s the downtown skyline right in front of you. The juxtaposition of urban and wilderness is really impressive.

The JRPS also includes Belle Isle, a favorite destination for Richmonders. The island is crisscrossed with trails and is a popular spot for walking and jogging, as well as sunbathing on the rocks and swimming during the warmer months. It can get super-crowded during the summer, though, and I personally prefer hiking the trails to a quieter location for swimming.

Downtown Richmond intersects with the James at Brown’s Island, which connects to both the Canal Walk through the city and the Belle Isle trails. Brown’s Island is a park and the site of many riverside festivals (including RiverRock, which I mentioned in my last post, Friday Cheers during May and June, and the Richmond Folk Festival). It’s also right next door to the historic Tredegar Ironworks, home to The American Civil War Center, a phenomenal museum.

Closer to campus, Pony Pasture lies just across the river from UR, and is a popular spot for Richmond students to hike, jog, and hang out by the river. I spent many a Saturday afternoon during college over at Pony Pasture.

Richmond exists solely because of the James and its rapids – the city was founded in 1737 at the fall line of the James, or the highest point that oceangoing ships could sail – and in fact its name is derived in part from the river, since the view of the James from Libby Hill reminded the earliest settlers of the view of the Thames from Richmond, England. And the river remains an active and central part of life in Richmond to this day. I’ve really fallen in love with the river, first as a student and now as a resident of the city of Richmond.

And on a completely different note, I want to give a farewell shoutout on the blog to retiring Dean of Admission Pam Spence, as well as Mary Ann Bagby, Dia Lisner, and Sabena Moretz. Your contributions to the University are greater than you know, and you will be missed.


  1. Sammi
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    How were you able to get to Pony Pasture from campus? I’m not planning on bringing a car to campus. Is it convenient and safe to bike or walk to Pony Pasture/the River, and if so, can you provide directions?

    Thanks! It sounds like a great way for Richmond students to spend some leisure time.

    • Tom
      Posted April 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink


      Students either drive to Pony Pasture (my own experience was without a car until my senior year, but I never had any trouble finding rides); or they walk/jog/ride a bike there. The Huguenot Bridge is the only really iffy section in terms of safety – it has a pedestrian sidewalk, but it’s a pretty narrow bridge – otherwise it’s both convenient and safe to go without a car.

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