Brown's Island in Richmond

Brown’s Island is one of the most heavily visited public park spaces in the city of Richmond. Located on the riverfront along the James River, just south of Tredegar Street between 5th and 12th Streets, the island was formed by the Haxall Canal and is part of the 1.25-mile Canal Walk.

History of Brown’s Island

Originally formed as part of the Haxall Canal in 1789, Brown’s Island is named after its first settler, Elijah Brown, who acquired the land in 1826. During the Civil War, it was home to the Confederate States Laboratory where women and children produced ammunition and other military supplies.

Toward the end of the 19th century, in 1894, the Richmond Union Passenger Railway formed a coal power plant on the Island; and, in 1899, Dominion Virginia Power operated a hydroelectric plant that ran off the Haxall Canal on the east side of the island, which necessitated construction of the Brown’s Island Dam. Anchored into the James River are supports to the Chesapeake & Ohio Elevated Rail lines (now controlled by CSX) which are a favorite site for rail buffs, visitors and event attendees.

In the late 20th century, the Albemarle Paper Company owned and operated a paper mill on the Island, and later gifted the land to the City of Richmond, who developed Brown’s Island as a public park to both preserve and offer access to the breathtaking river views.

Access to Brown’s Island

The island can be accessed from a variety of points.

  • A vehicular bridge on the western end of the island nearest historic Tredegar is primarily used for event purposes (not accessible for public vehicles); however, pedestrians and cyclists can use this access point too.
  • The Halsey Bridge at 5th Street and the eastern-most entrance under the Manchester Bridge are both pedestrian and bike friendly.
  • The beautifully arched 7th Street bridge is another access point for pedestrians and overlooks the Canal.
  • Both the vehicular bridge and Halsey Bridge at 5th Street are best for those patrons who are differently-abled and/or handicapped.
  • Affectionately known by locals as the “T. Pott.,” the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge has literally “bridged” the north (Brown’s Island) and south (Manchester) banks of the James River. Open 24-hours a day to pedestrians and cyclists, the bridge is handicap accessible and all are encouraged to enjoy the amazing views. The bridge honors the late City of Richmond Urban Planner, author and historic preservationist, Tyler Potterfield, who for years advocated for a historic re-use of the Brown’s Island Dam Walk.

Parking and Transportation

  • Both paid and free public parking are available along 5th Street, at the American Civil War Museum and at the Belle Isle parking lot near Brown’s Island Way.
  • Bike racks are also located along Tredegar Street near 5th Street and also at the vehicular bridge on the western end of the island nearest historic Tredegar.
  • Patrons can also use public transportation with GRTC’s Riverfront bus stop and then walk to the island.
  • More can be found on our Parking & Transportation webpage or by using our downtown map.

For your convenience, there is FREE wi-fi and portable restrooms (seasonally). The park is open 24-hours a day.

NOTICE: Temporary changes due to COVID-19 pandemic

The James River Park System, remains open but restrictions are in place. Activities such as walking, hiking, running, bicycling and paddling are allowed, while practicing safe social distancing. Swimming, sunbathing, and gatherings of people have been banned by the City of Richmond. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities closed the parking lot on Tredegar Street, the parking lot at Pony Pasture, access to the Pipeline, and the W. 21st Street entrance to the park system on Saturdays and Sundays. Parking restrictions have been implemented along Brander Street near Ancarrow’s Landing, along S. 5th Street near Brown’s Island, and along S. 2nd Street near the Tredegar area. The Manchester Climbing Wall along downtown’s riverfront is closed until further notice.

Events on Brown’s Island

Brown's Island is located in the heart of downtown Richmond making it an ideal location for some of Richmond’s favorite events. Venture Richmond hosts and manages seasonal events on the island and coordinates Brown’s Island Rentals for others seeking a unique downtown venue. Today, Brown’s Island has become synonymous with outdoor recreation, concerts and some of Virginia's most popular festivals including the Friday Cheers concert series, Dominion Energy Riverrock, and the Richmond Folk Festival. Brown’s Island has also been home to events like the Richmond Marathon, Virginia PrideFest and the Annual Komen Central Virginia Race for the Cure.

Interested in hosting an event? Check out our Brown’s Island Rental page to inquire about rental opportunities on the island.

Historical Exhibits and Public Art on Brown’s Island

There are many fascinating historical exhibits and public art on Brown’s Island. To learn about them all, click HERE.