The narrated canal cruise offers a good synopsis of Richmond's colorful history. Along the way, you'll see not just the canal but also part of the James River (the navigable part) and the old Tobacco Row. Maybe, if you're observant, you'll even get to see some local wildlife.
Tours run every weekend from early April until mid-November, plus Wednesdays and Thursdays in summer. Depatures are on the hour. Check the website for details.
The James River was clearly unnavigable, with its wild rapids and treacherous rocks. So the Haxall Canal was built. Today, you can explore this canal on foot or by boat. Best bet: Do both.
This is a relaxing stroll, that takes you through the history and architecture of the city. Historic monuments along the way tell of the major events in this city's past. The only drawback is the noise of the highway overpass that towers over the canal.
The Canal Walk stretches 1.25 miles along the historic Haxall Canal and the James River & Kanawha Canal. This is a nice trail for walking or jogging, and it has a boathouse. This area is also lined with historic plaques and markers such as the Christopher Newport Cross, a National Historic Landmark plaque, signposts describing "Washington's Vision" for the local canals, and more.
The Kanawha Canal was begun in 1785, and at its peak the canal stretched 187 miles to an area west of Lynchburg, Virginia. The canals were damaged during the Civil War, then went into disuse with the rise of the railroads after the war. The Canal Walk was redeveloped in a $52 million project that was completed in 1999 in an effort to revive downtown.
George Washington surveyed the digging of the canals in Richmond. The reason for the canals is because parts of the James River had rapids which was not conducive to safe shipping. For many years, the canals were in disrepair. After certain key businesses downtown closed, the city council decided to revitalise the economy by drawing in tourists. They felt the best way to do that was to emulate San Antonio's canal walk. Richmond has made great steps forward, but it is still a work in progress.
I had walked part of the Canal Walk on a number of occasions before, but on 11 September 2005, David Karnubawax, Lee gipper84, and I walked it from Dock Street through to Bell Isle. Along the way, we passed through the Kanawha locks, the Alcoa plant, saw the Christopher Newport cross, Brown's Island, and Belle Isle crossing numerous footbridges along the way. It was good exercise for the 3 of us who need it.
The Canal Walk to me is such a beautiful part of Richmond. I have taken my girlfriend Jessi there a few times and B1Bob and Karnubawax when David came to Richmond for a few days. The canal walk is a real tribute to Richmond and many describe it as our "St. Louis Arch" You start off down at Shockoe Slip and work your way up toward Brown's Island where frequent outdoor concerts are held. The canal walk has a ferry which will ride you the distance of the canal and will give you a good oppurtunity to few all of the canal. As you approah Brown's island you have the historic Tredegar Iron Works and amazing fews of the James River. When David Carner was here he told me that "he had never seen this is the brouchures about Richmond, yet it was the most amazing part of Richmond" From the Canal Walk you can see the rapids of the James, and from the old bridge pillars you can see down the entire James. From the pedestrian suspension bridge, under the Robert E Lee Bridge you can see a gorgeous shot of the entire canal.
The Canal walk is romantic , though I wouldn't advise taking your date there at night. There are boat tours given during the day, and part of the walk leads you to an old mill surrounded by a brick path. If you're a history buff, you can also check out the few plaques they have describing how the canal came about. Its a bit disappointing that the water is a murky brown (of course, what else do you expect with the James?) , but the walk around it is very pretty. I would definately recommend this to visitors, as it doesn't cost a thing and it is convenient to other attractions.
This is the product of the powers that be trying to emmulate the San Antonio river walk. Browns Island also is home to Friday Cheers. This is a summer concert series. Every friday(as the name implies) there is a live concert after work. There is plenty of food and beer to be had at these events.
Belles Island has served several purposes over the years. The most notable, it was a prison camp during the American Civil War.
These islands for the most part have no permanent structures because spring and fall floods often completely submerge them. This is also the fall line of the James River. There are giant rocks(great for basking in the sun) everywhere in the river near the islands. Another 200 yards down stream, the river turns into a deep wide river navigable by ocean going vessels.
This was a personal favorite spot of mine for swimming and sun bathing in my youth. I would not recommend swimming in this water now or probably then( I was young and not as wise).
Yeah, I know, I put these same canals under "tourist traps," but I guess I have mixed feelings about them. On one hand, there's not much to see and not much of a view. On the other hand, it's a peaceful spot that's simultaneously in downtown, yet away from the crowds. They were originally built to bypass the James River rapids.
The old canal system in downtown Richmond has been restored with groomed and lighted walkways. You will see old historical buildings, bridges, etc. It is hoped that restaurants and shops will eventually line this canal, kind of like the Riverwalk in San Antonio. A very relaxing way to experience history.
definately a must see. One of the prettier parts of Richmond. Go there on a bright sunny day and it's da bomb.
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