Yes, of course! The James River runs right through the middle of Richmond and the James River Park System is managed by the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. If you’d like to explore the underwater world of the James River, here are a few tips:
1. Stop by the Visitor Center at Hillcrest and Riverside Drive for detailed information, maps, and guides. Many have been written by Ralph White, Park Manager and Senior Naturalist for the James River Park System. There’s even a map for $2 printed on Tyvek, so it’s waterproof! You may call (804) 780-5311 to reach the visitor center.
2. Be SAFE! Wear tennis shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects; wear a life jacket to improve your mobility and protect you from rough rocks; and, use sunscreen especially on the back of your neck! Long sleeved shirt and lightweight long pants will protect you from abrasive surfaces and sharp rocks.
3. It’s best to use a snorkel and face mask and crawl or walk upstream with your face in the water. Choose shallow rocky areas (6 inches to 24 inches deep). You’ll find the best viewing is in slow-moving water. Search the shadows – many creatures hide or attach themselves under rocky overhangs.
4. Pick your place! Pony Pasture is easily reached but is also the most heavily used area. The broad stretch of rocks at the 43rd St Entrance offers more variety and is generally less crowded.
5. AVOID sandy or muddy areas that cloud up, fast water such as Hollywood Rapids (north of Belle isle) and the “Pipeline” between Belle and Mayo’s Islands.
6. CAUTION: If you are pulled into fast water (waist deep or knocks you off your feet) float through it with your feet up and pointed downstream!
7. Protect the environment! Please……no glass. Do not bring glass into the park and place all trash in the proper receptacle. Leave plants, animals and artifacts where you find them for others to enjoy!
Some creatures like clams, mussels, snails and fish nests are easy to find. Some creatures like crayfish, insects, nymphs, Dragonflies. mayflies, etc will be found in and around rocks. Other creatures like small, medium, and large fish move quickly, but if you lie in a shallow rapid (6 inches deep or so) with your arms outstretched, small fish will often use you as their new territory. Or, bend over so your head is underwater, place your face up close to a rocky overhang — you just might come face-to-face with a large fish!
So start your river-focused adventure at the James River Park System Visitor Center at Hillcrest and Riverside Drive to get the latest information. If you’re lucky you’ll find Ralph White — the James River Park System’s head guru who is scheduled to retire January 2013! And, if you need overnight accommodations check out Richmond’s premier bed and breakfast, home of the hearty gourmet breakfast that will stick to for ribs all day long! More information is available from these experts: