James River – The Greatest of Urban Parks

Search for North America’s “greatest urban parks” and you will find a host of amazing metropolitan green spaces.  However, what you will most likely not come across is the James River Park System or the any-number of fantastic City of Richmond Parks.  While it’s tuff to say that Central Park in Manhattan, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, or Washington Park in Portland aren’t the best… we can say how amazing the James River in Richmond is.  What we have here in Richmond is special and there is no better way to see the James River by it’s trails and whitewater laden in the heart of the city.  November 8th will be a special day.  The leaves are changing colors and the park will be in all it’s glory during ‘King of the James.’


A stroll in Forest Hill Park (photo Hunter Davis)

And while ‘King of the James’ will highlight some of the fantastic outdoor features found in Richmond, please don’t think this is all that exists.  The trail system in the James River Park System and City of Richmond Parks are far more extensive.  Take a peak at RVA MORE‘s website.  They have done a phenomenal job documenting these trails and give great descriptions on how to access them. Get out and explore places like Powhite Park, Larus Park, as well as many more.


A biker faces the challenge of the Buttermilk Trail (photo Megan Davis)

The Falls of the James gives Richmond a unique landscape and the whitewater found here is amazing.  For some reason or another, this section of whitewater is very underrated in the paddling world and sees very little traffic.  With that being said, the lack of paddlers can offer a trip downriver the sense of solitude, even while being located in the middle of a thriving urban center.  The James River has year round access a long with year round boatable flows (something very rare in the whitewater paddling realm).  In the summer, the water is warm & relatively low.  This creates an amazing ‘on-water’ learning environment.  These conditions are why so many great paddlers are spawned from Richmond.


Even low flows give expert paddle Cooper a chance to train (photo Hunter Davis)

As the seasons change, Winter & Spring bring high volume flows with plenty of action, large waves, and technical lines.  The James River truly is a paddler’s paradise with plenty to explore.  The ‘upper reaches’ of runnable lines have still not been fully explored.


High water offers new challenges…Cooper most certainly the first to free wheel the Hidden Boof (photo Hunter Davis)

Hosting the ‘King of the James’ in Richmond is a privilege and one that we don’t take lightly.  The Park System here on the James is made possible by the hard work & determination of the JRPS staff, city staff, and countless volunteers.  ‘King of the James’ would like to say ‘thanks’ to anyone who has played a roll in the incredible vision of our natural landscape here in Richmond and along the James.  Keeping the James River in it’s Natural State, free of future industrial development, will be one day (what we hope), recognized as North American’s Greatest Urban Park.


a younger Max boofing Eight Ball (photo Hunter Davis)

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