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Riverfront Canal Walk, Richmond, Virginia


Enjoying an outdoor stroll while keeping a physical pandemic separation can be a relaxing mode of exercise on a nice day.  I took the opportunity to stroll a short section of the Richmond Virginia Riverfront Canal Walk a few paces from the Tredegar Iron Works which is now an American Civil War Museum.

7th Street Bridge Promenade #2

Canal Walk SignageRichmond, the capital city of Virginia is located on the 7-mile fall line of the James River, where at George Washington’s urging, Virginia built a canal with a series of wooden locks around the falls.  At its completion in 1840, the canal recorded nearly 195 boats per day to transport the flow of goods such as tobacco from western to eastern Virginia which bolstered the State’s economy.

James River Rapids

American Civil War damage to the canal coupled with new railroad lines built along the canal towpath spelled the end of the waterway traffic.  To repurpose the riverfront area in 1999, Richmond completed a 1-1/4 mile canal walk path linking the Riverfront between 5th Street and 17th Streets with brass historic markers and contextual signage along the way.  Walking and bicycle paths with riverfront views make this a popular thoroughfare for city residents and visitors.

James River Left Canal Right Railroad Bridge Overhead

After leaving the Tredegar Civil War Museum, I decided to embark on the canal walk because it was such a beautiful day and since my museum ticket included a day’s parking in the adjacent lot which was very expensive if you didn’t buy the museum ticket (I’m a thrifty/cheap traveler).

Pedestrian Bridge From Tredegar Historic Iron Works

Though the canal walk is longer than I had time for, I took a shorter, yet gorgeous river view section.  Leaving the museum, you cross Tredegar Street and proceed across a short pedestrian bridge over the Haxall Canal to Brown’s Island.  The bridge is only a few hundred yards long and is lined with a series of black devices that control the level of canal water.  At first I thought they were lights so river goers could find the canal from the river, but after talking to a historical society member, I discovered that these devices were control valves so the that canal water level could be controlled.  Last summer the devices were engaged to empty the canal so the silt could be dredged.

Canal Water Gauge DeviceCanal Water Level Gauges

The island's first settler was Elijah Brown, for whom it was named after he acquired the land in 1826.  During the American Civil War, the island was the home of the Confederate States Laboratory. The C.S. Laboratory produced ammunition, friction primers, percussion caps, and other ordnance for the Confederate war effort. On Friday, March 13, 1863, an explosion occurred in a section of the laboratory that killed forty-five individuals and left twenty-three others injured. Most of the killed and injured were young girls who were the labor force used on the island.

Rafting RentalRafting UrbanThe Canal Walk easily kept everyone at the social/physical distance requirement.  Many locals were also having a great time with inflated floats in the canal.  Once on Brown’s Island there are a number of water device rental places for you choosing and the view is dominated by the James River and the Railroad Bridge.  A sign welcomes you to cross the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge which stretches over the James River Falls from Brown’s Island to the Manchester side of the river where you can test your abilities on  the free climbing wall.

Potterfield SignagePotterfield Bridge #2
Potterfield BridgePotterfield Bridge Lower Level PlatformSlave Trail SignageThe Potterfield Bridge honors the city planner, author and historian of the city of Richmond Virginia.  The bridge is over 1,700 feet long and memorializes the course of three days with the Evacuation and Fire of the Confederate Army Retreat, Entrance of the Union Army and Emancipation Day of slaves in Richmond.

My last look down on the bridge lead me back to the Canal Walk where flags noted the area in which I was walking.  In this case it was the Slave Trail.  While strolling the Slave Trail portion of the Canal Walk I noticed a sign on the Railroad Bridge that is was pained with Dutch Boy Lead Paint which I thought was no longer allowed, but the signage was advertised as such.

Dutch Boy Lead Paint Sign

Further down the Canal Walk path was an historical marker stating that in 1888, Richmond Union Passenger Railway became the first electric streetcar line in the world and was designed by Frank Julian Sprague, then replicated around the world.
  StreetcarCanal Walk Directional SignsAlong the trail are a number of directional signs to various locations like the famous Shokoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip.  The 7th Street footbridge provided a nice view of the Haxall Canal and the promenade.  "The Headman" Statue commemorates the contribution of African American men as skilled boatmen on the James River and its canals and in the development of industry and commerce in Richmond.

The Headman
Richmond is the capital city of the state of Virginia and easily accessible.  Richmond boasts an international airport, Greyhound bus hub and two Amtrak railroad stations.  It is located on north-south Interstate 95 about a 6 hour drive from New York City and 3 hour drive from Washington DC.  It is also located on east-west Interstate 64 connecting Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Charlottesville.

Tredegar Window Thru Railroad Bridge Trestle7th Street Bridge #2
Left, Tredegar Museum through railroad trestle; right, 7th Street Bridge


Images (21)
  • 7th Steet Bridge Promenade
  • 7th Street Bridge #2
  • 7th Street Bridge Promenade #2
  • Canal Walk Directional Signs
  • Canal Walk Signage
  • Canal Water Gauge Device
  • Canal Water Level Gauges
  • James River Left Canal Right Railroad Bridge Overhead
  • James River Rapids
  • Pedestrian Bridge From Tredegar Historic Iron Works
  • Potterfield Bridge #2
  • Potterfield Bridge
  • Potterfield Signage
  • Rafting Rental
  • Rafting Urban
  • The Headman
  • Tredegar Window Thru Railroad Bridge Trestle
  • Dutch Boy Lead Paint Sign
  • Potterfield Bridge Lower Level Platform
  • Slave Trail Signage
  • Streetcar

George G

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