Know Your H2O

 
If you’re looking for things to do in the next two months, why not plan an adventure on or around the James River? Whether you want to be in it, on it, or near it, Richmond has a wide variety of river-based activities to welcome in the summer.
 
First stop, rocking the river. A great laid-back way to enjoy the river is to simply grab a towel or beach chair and claim a rock with a view. Two easy access areas are Pony Pasture and Belle Island.
 
Pony Pasture remains one of the most popular river destinations, so it’s always a good idea to get there early for easy parking and to get a good spot. If the river is low (and always check the level before you go) you can wade out to find some more private areas offshore. If you are going to wade, wear something to protect your feet, and bring some type of flotation device. I love having a good old-fashioned rubber inner tube with me for floating, sitting on, and for a little insurance if I step into a section that is deeper than expected. 
 
Belle Island is another great place to grab a rock, and you can access the island from the footbridge that starts on Tredegar Street on the north side of the river, or by the bridge near 22nd Street on the south. Back in the day before the bridges were installed, the only access route was parking at the 22nd Street parking lot and rock hopping from the south side to the island. For the adventurous, that’s still an option. Unlike Pony Pasture, Belle Island has some seriously dangerous rapids nearby, so stay out of the river and stick to rock hoping if you’re looking for the perfect spot.
 
Another option is to be on the river with a tube, paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. As mentioned earlier, my favorite floatation device is an industrial rubber inner tube. They are inexpensive, tough, and should last you for years. Stay away from the supposed “river tubes” that are one step up from something you’d find in a swimming pool. One good bounce against a rock and they start leaking like a geriatric water polo team on White Claw Wednesdays. 
 
Tubs are not as easy to find as they used to be, but they are available online and in stock at Tractor Supply Company for around $15. Pro tip, pick up a valve stem remover at an auto supply or big box store. They are under four dollars, and with a quick spin, you can remove the tube valve and deflate a tube in about a minute. It sure beats holding down the little gizmo for ten minutes to get the same result. 
 
For real fun, sign up for a guided trip with a local group like Riverside Outfitters. Trips range from upper and lower James rafting trips to kayak and paddle board adventures, and they will even rent you a tube and provide drop off and pick up for a long, leisurely float.
 
If you’re in the mood to be near, but not on the James, Richmond has miles of trails to explore. I love the Canal Walk, a 1 ½ mile trail in the heart of downtown Richmond. It’s a great place to walk or bike and a romantic spot to stroll at dusk under the glow of the skyline. There are 22 miles of trails to walk or run near the James. I’m a fan of Northbank, which starts at Tredegar Street, takes you to the edge of Hollywood Cemetery, and then past Maymont Park to Texas Beach. Friends of James River Park has a great interactive map that can help you find a trail for you. 
 
Finally, why not enjoy the James while you’re enjoying some good food and drink? The Boathouse at Rocket’s Landing has the best view of the river and the city, and the outside elevated patios are perfectly situated for some great social media shots featuring the water and the skyline. For a super casual approach to dining, try the Lily Pad in Varina, about 15 miles east of downtown. Located on the water at Kingland Marina, it’s a hip casual spot that feels like it’s hours away from Richmond. It’s laid back, but trendy enough that actors Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead stopped in while filming in Richmond. Two large boat ramps make for easy access to the James, which is deeper and slower moving in this location, so it’s a good excuse to bring your canoe, kayak, or boat for a run before or after a meal.
 
So, a friendly reminder again, life goes by fast, but June goes by faster. Enjoy it while it’s here. And if you have any suggestions for fun places in Richmond we should feature, drop me a line. I’m always up for a new adventure.
 

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