James River Activities in Downtown Richmond

Find Outdoor Adventure Along the James River

Kayaking, rafting, mountain biking and more adventures along the James River are waiting for you to try in downtown Richmond.

James River Activities in Downtown Richmond

Walking Paths and Running Trails in Downtown Richmond, VA

With the Virginia Capital Trail anchoring the eastern end of downtown Richmond’s riverfront, and Belle Isle to the west, visitors have access to several miles of downtown trails and pathways.

The historic Canal Walk is the 1.25-mile centerpiece of downtown Richmond’s riverfront. Enjoy a romantic after-dinner walk with the city skyline lights all around you; or, stroll through history, interacting with the exhibits and public art, and learn more about Richmond when you read the historic markers. Walk or run anytime and anywhere along the Canal Walk, through the adjoining Shockoe Slip neighborhood, or along the Virginia Capital Trail. Or, make a break for the wild side of downtown and head to the James River Park System’s North Bank Trail, Buttermilk Trail or a lap around Belle Isle.

Enjoy your runner’s high on the 22 miles of trails that can be found along the James River. Some of the favorite places for runners downtown are the Canal Walk, Floodwall Walk and Belle Isle. Check out RVA’s running community at Richmond Road Runner's Club or borrow a pooch with Richmond SPCA's Running Buddies program. If you prefer organized races and walks, there are also a number of annual events in Richmond that start, end, or intersect along downtown’s James River and on Brown’s Island.

James River Activities in Downtown Richmond

Downtown Richmond Bike Trails and Paths

Mountain Biking

Richmond’s mountain bike trail system, comprised of trails along the James River are among the best in the nation. Downtown Richmond alone has 20 miles of trails. You’ll find it hard to find another downtown on the East Coast with a better variety of mountain biking opportunities!

Bicycle Skills Area

The Belle Isle bicycle skills area is the best place in the James River Park System to polish your technique to master the more than 20 miles of local mountain bike trails. The skills area consists of beginner to intermediate obstacles, such as logs, rock gardens and drop-offs. It also includes a beginner and full-size pump track for improving your rhythm and stamina. The park is easily accessible and perfect for riders of all ages. Opens at sunrise and closes at sunset.

For bike advocacy information and issues in Richmond, check out Bike Walk RVA. For an introduction to our city’s bike culture, check out BreakawayRVA. For more information regarding cycling through the city, check out our bike resources and downtown transportation options here.

Kayaking on the James River in Downtown Richmond

James River Kayaking in Downtown Richmond

The James River drops 105 feet in elevation between Bosher’s Dam at Richmond’s western edge to where the tides begin at Mayo’s Bridge. This seven miles — the Falls of the James — is home to America’s best urban whitewater. From Bosher’s Dam to Reedy Creek, the rapids are mostly Class I and II. Below Reedy Creek, the downtown Richmond rapids challenge even experienced boaters with narrow runs through Class III and IV water.

City Boat Landings and Launch Areas:

  • Ancarrow’s Landing/Manchester Slave Dock is a boat landing and fishing spot at one of Richmond’s most intriguing historic sites.
  • North Shore offers paddling access.
  • Reedy Creek Launch is a canoe launch area with parking for 15 cars.
  • Tredegar Takeout is near the Historic Tredegar Iron Works.

Click for a map that marks all city boat access points.

For kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) rentals with Waterfront RVA, visit their website. For walk-up, day-of kayak and SUP rentals with Waterfront RVA, visit their on-site location near Brown’s Island at 415 Tredegar Street, every day from May through October, 12:00pm to 6:00pm.

Tubing and Rafting on the James River in Downtown Richmond

James River Rafting in Downtown Richmond

Whether you’re after a thrill ride in Class III to IV whitewater or interested in a more relaxing whitewater rafting experience, the James River has what you’re looking for! You’ll quickly see why Richmond was named Outdoor Magazine’s “Best River Town” in 2012.

Riverside Outfitters offers rafting trips on smaller rapids for ages 5+, and trips on the bigger rapids for ages 10+. They’ve got rides through the big rapids that last about 1 hour for folks with only a little free time, and adventures that last 3-4 hours with lunch out on an island for folks with more time to unplug.

Riverside Outfitters is located downtown at 325 S. 14th Street. Find a "Reserved for Riverside" parking spot in their customer parking lot and check in at the front desk.

RVA Paddlesports offers whitewater kayak and rafting instruction for all levels of paddlers. Whether it's your first time in a boat, or you want to paddle a multi-day trip overseas, RVA Paddlesports offers adventure programs for everyone. Take part in their Raft Guide Training, Sierra Rescue River Rescue Certification, and Kayaking classes!

Virginia Capital Trail in Richmond

Virginia Capital Trail in Downtown Richmond

Even if you are a beginner on a bike or just looking to take a stroll, the Virginia Capital Trail offers something for everyone. Beginning downtown in Shockoe Bottom at the floodwall doors at S. 17th Street, the trail parallels the historic James River and Kanawha Canal in a flat, urban landscape, then continues eastward to more rural vistas. The 52-mile mixed-use path connects Richmond’s downtown to Jamestown, for those who decide to enjoy the trail in its entirety. Along the way, you’ll find amenities like benches for resting, repair stations, portable restrooms and rain shelters.

Fishing on the James River in Downtown Richmond

Fishing on the James River in Downtown Richmond

The James River in downtown Richmond is a great place to fish. The Fall Line creates different fishing environments ranging from flat water to rapids with lots of deep pools. You’ll find a variety of catfish, bass, sunfish, gar, carp, shad and herring. Recently, sturgeons have returned to the river.

March, April and May are popular fishing months when shad, perch, stripers and herring are migrating upstream to freshwater. When these spawning runs are underway, you can see anglers fishing from boats, the shore, bridges and on the rocks in the river. Some big, trophy-sized fish have been hooked in the James; jumbo stripers up to 30 pounds, largemouth bass up to 7 pounds, smallmouth bass up to 5 pounds, blue catfish up to 102 pounds and more. According to John Bryan, who has written a lot about fishing in the James, “Several fish over 50 pounds are caught every week throughout the year.”

Parking and Transportation Near the James River

Free Riverfront Parking:

  • On-street parking on S. 2nd Street between Brown’s Island Way and E. Byrd Street (limited daytime parking)
  • On-street parking on S. 5th Street on the west side of the street from Tredegar to E. Byrd Street (very limited daytime parking)
  • The Belle Isle parking lot is located at the corner of Tredegar Street and Brown’s Island Way (limited daytime parking)

Paid Riverfront Parking:

Riverfront Bike Parking/Riding:

  • Bike racks are located along Tredegar Street between 5th and 7th Streets, and at the vehicular bridge on the western end of Brown’s Island nearest historic Tredegar.
  • A Bike Share station is located at 620 Tredegar Street. Explore all of the RVA Bike Share stations here.

Riverfront Bus Transportation:

  • Getting to Richmond's riverfront is easy when you ride GRTC. Just take the route #87 bus across the Lee Bridge to the stops at 2nd Street and Brown's Island Way near Tredegar or at 2nd and Spring Street. The route #87 bus runs every 60 minutes. On its way back across the river, the bus stops at 2nd and Spring Street and again at 2nd Street closer to the Virginia War Memorial. Just look for the purple GRTC signs, or track your bus via the free Transit App!

Find more information about Parking and Transportation in downtown Richmond here.

NOTICE: There will be road and parking closures on S. 5th Street south of E. Byrd Street at the riverfront that will be occurring over various weekends from mid-June through mid-July. Primary work activities will be over the weekend with some ancillary support work occurring during the week. The work is tied to the construction of the new CoStar north tower. The closures will include pedestrian and vehicle traffic restrictions.

Explore More of the RVA Outdoors Here!