James River

The James River is Virginia’s largest river, flowing across the entire state from its beginning at the headwaters of the Cowpasture and Jackson Rivers in Bath and Highland Counties, to its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads.

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The fall line of the James River cuts through the heart of the city, making Richmond the only city in the US with Class V/Class IV rapids in an urban setting. Throughout the history of Richmond, the James River has had a central role in creating economic stability. Colonial Richmond depended on the river for fresh water and transportation, but the city was affected by the diseases brought on by the climate and insects around the river. The river was often a site of violent conflict during this era and indigenous Americans were displaced by European settlers who wanted control of the water source. In modern times, the James River has served as a demarcation of identity in Greater Richmond, with the North Side and South Side representing different images of what it meant to be a Richmonder.
The James River Park System includes over 500 acres in the Richmond region.
Today, wildlife and water quality continue to suffer from the impacts of pollution and urban development. State and local government, scientists, and conservation nonprofits are all contributing to restoration and conservation efforts.

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an illustration of the james river headwaters

The Mighty James

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