Raging waters in James river at 13 feet

Pony Pasture

A bench at Pony Pasture. Where are the rocks?

The past two days, I’ve taken back what little pleasure can be recovered from all the excessive rains we have had in Central Virginia the past week or more. All the rain flowed eventually down to the mighty James river and has given us all plenty to gawk at and be amazed by. 

Thursday, Pony Pasture was loud and the water was high.  Much more impressive than I thought it would be, considering that in early November we were “treated” to a ton of rain from the Nor’easter that threatened to force the Richmond marathon to re-route away from Riverside Drive. 

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Water was just two feet shy of cresting over the take out steps at Pony Pasture

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Water closed the River Trail. This trash can is normally about 25 feet away from the riverbank.

The water was up over portions of the River Trail at Pony Pasture, so I stayed near the parking area. It was loud! So loud that I could hear the river in my car with the windows closed.

* * *

On Friday, with the James at its peak at more than 13 feet, I ventured to Belle Isle via the walkway at Southside.

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Southside rocks at Belle Isle -- usually just a trickle of water at normal levels

Again, I could hear the river from where I parked at the Riverfront Towers. Loud. Like “train-passing-by” kind of loud.

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I love seeing water pouring over the VEPCO dam -- such power!

Water everywhere, in places that rarely get water at normal levels. It was great seeing (again) water flowing over the VEPCO dam on the Southside of Belle Isle.

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Bridge over the mill race was cut off by high water

In fact some of my favorite spots to watch the river were cut off by the high water. I love the mill race along the south shore of the James that runs along the Goat Islands down from the James River Park System visitor center and Reedy Creek takeout. I tried to get over to see the VEPCO dam for a great view of Hollywood Cemetery contrasting with the huge river, but couldn’t risk it in the cold.

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Water spilling over retaining wall above the VEPCO dam

The water was over some of the retaining walls, something I hadn’t seen before. I kept thinking about how much driftwood was shifting, how much trash would have to be picked up, how many paddlers were drooling at the sights of all that white water and above all — how much I DID NOT want to fall in the river.

Days like this were made for parents to freak out with little kids next to raging waters and the thoughts of how easy a tiny trip or slip could be fatal.  Watch, but be safe!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Claire on January 6, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Can you tell me how to get to Belle Isle from the Southside walkway? I keep reading about people doing it but can’t find any information on the park website or by google to figure out where exactly this walkway is….and since I live on the southside a few blocks from the James I’d love to be able to take that stroll.


    • Yes, I’d love to! If you know where the Riverfront Towers are on Riverside Drive near the Robert E. Lee Bridge, there is a walkway across the street from there. Cross the big brown walkway over the train trains and follow the path to the right. Right now, there is plenty of driftwood piled in one spot over the lower path, so take the higher path along the fence line. Both paths end up at the southside bridge to cross to Belle Isle.

      You can also get there from the Reedy Creek parking lot at the Visitor’s Center at 22nd Street and Riverside Drive. There are wide gravel walking paths and it is about a mile walk.


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