I’ve got a confession to make. Belle Isle is the ONLY swimming locale that I’ve visited in the many years that I’ve lived in Richmond. I know. It’s pathetic. Now fed up with squandering RVA’s swim settings because I knew too little about them (and even where they were located), I’ve put together both a communal list and profile of Richmond’s best swimming locations for fellow RVA lay swimmers.
If the choice is for us to either sink or swim, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll choose the latter. But where? I’ve heard names like Hadad’s and Belle Isle and Texas Beach ever since I moved to Richmond, but would you be shocked if I told you that in the seven years I’ve lived in RVA, I’ve only ventured to Belle Isle? I’ve felt out of the loop about the best swim spots, and what people thought about them. I thought others might feel the same way. So I decided to try and change that.
Below is not only a list of the most discussed swimming spots but hopefully some details about each location to help you figure out which spots are best suited to your liking. I solicited recommendations from people both online and off and put together a skeletal list of the best swimming options. Did you know that there’s a dog-exclusive indoor swimming pool? Yeah, me either.
One of the biggest obstacles that kept me from visiting many of these places in the past was figuring out where some of them even are. I’ve included Google Maps links for the appropriate locations to help you get a better idea of how to get there and get swimming.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. I hope that you’l add your comments/thoughts/recommendations in the comments below. What are the best times to go? Are there any spots that most people don’t know about? Happy Swimming!
This is probably the most popular place for Richmonders to go swimming on the James River. Once you get there you can see Hollywood Cemetary, the Downtown skyline, and Tredegar Iron Works. The location tends to attract all sorts of Richmonders, from jocks to hipsters. Beer drinking, while illegal, is common.
- Getting there: From the Museum District/Fan head downtown. At 2nd street, make a right. You’ll see Belle Isle signs from there.
Hadad’s is one of Richmond’s best know swimming holes. According to them, it’s “a family oriented water park and picnic ground that offers something for everyone.” Many will say that by “everyone” they mean hipsters. Hadad’s is very popular with the cool, hipster crowd, but don’t let that dissuade you from heading there. It has ample room for BBQ’s and is open 7 days a week. It’s a private location, and there is a fee to gain admittance. Individual rates are $12.
- Getting there: located at 7900 Osborne Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23231
This is one of the quieter locales on the James, located on the south side of Richmond. Park your car in a lot, and then follow the walkway across railroad tracks. A surfeit of rocks you can camp out on will lay before you. The river is a good depth for lounging; you’ll probably see kayakers, too.
- Getting there: Follow 2nd Street to the Robert E. Lee Bridge. Cross the James River and turn right on Riverside Drive. Travel 1.4 miles to the James River Park System entrance just beyond 42nd Street (a right turn from Riverside Drive into the parking lot).
The Pump House turned from a pumping station to an obsolete pumping station by the mid-1920’s. After World War II, it was abandoned. There’s a trail that will take you to a CSX “No Trespassing” sign. If you were one to keep going (and we’re not saying that you should be) you’ll cross the railroad tracks and come to many rocks. Hop along those rocks until you get to river rapids. Underneath the closest bridge will be a great pylon that you theoretically could jump off.
- Getting there: From the Museum District, turn right once you get to Boulevard. Turn right onto Blanton Avenue. Take a right onto Garret Street, and then your first left onto Rugby Road. You’ll take a slight left onto Pump House Dr.
Kinda oddly named, seeing as how we don’t live in the Lone Star state, but “Tay-has” Beach seems to be one of the best locales to get your swim on according to our feedback. It does have the reputation of being a favorite location for Richmond homeless, but apparently the increased crowds have been driving them away.
Back in the day, VCU Creative Writing MFA students would go skinny-dipping after their workshops, so says well-known Richmond writer and resident Dennis Danvers, who wrote a short story involving Texas Beach for the Richmond Noir.
- Getting there: From the Museum District/Fan go south on Meadow St. and turn left onto Colorado Ave. Take your third right onto Carter Ave and then turn left at Kansas Ave. Turn right onto Texas Ave and it’ll be on your right.
Another oddly-named destination, as there is no pasture, and no ponies. But there is water! It’s located on the south bank of the James River, two miles downstream from the Huguenot Bridge on Riverside Drive. It’s known for attracting a high Spanish-speaking contingent, although it’s certainly not exclusively so. It’s a popular spot to begin a canoeing, kayaking, or inner-tube trip. There aren’t as many rocks as Belle Isle or 42nd Street, getting cozy on a rock with someone may be tricky. It can also become a bit a nuisance if it gets too crowded.
- Getting there: Pass over Hugenont Bridge and take your first right, take a right on Riverside Drive, and keep on until you get there there.
While you’re out swimming and yakking it up with hotties, your dog sits at home and pines for some water fun of their own. Some owner you are! But taking pets to private pools is almost certainly a no-no, and taking them with you into the Richmond wildlife may be a bit demanding. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a dog-centric pool? Wait, there is?
I mean, THERE IS!
Paws to Swim can accommodate your dog with only a few restrictions. It’s a great way to get your dog some exercise, and even help rehabilitate dogs that have had a recent surgery.
- Getting there: 12082 Walnut Hill Drive – Rockville, VA 23146 804.749.4972
Richmond pools are open to the public and are FREE.
* Monday to Friday, 1pm – 4:30pm and 5pm to 7pm
* Saturday, 1pm – 5pm
* Sunday, 1pm – 5pm
* Holidays, 1pm – 4pm
- Battery Park Pool, 2917 Dupont Circle., 804.646.0127
- Calhoun Pool, 436 Calhoun St., 804.646.4751
- Hotchkiss Pool, 701 East Brookland Park Blvd., 804.646.3762
- Fairmount Pool, 2000 U St., 804.646.3831
- Powhatan Pool, 5051 Northhampton St., 804.646.3595
- Woodville Pool, 2305 Fairfield Ave., 804.646.3834
- Bellemeade Pool, 1800 Lynhaven Ave., 804.646.8849
- Blackwell Pool, 238 East 14th St., 804.646.8718
- Swansboro Indoor Pool, 3160 Midlothian Tpke., 804.646.8088
- Randolph Pool, 1401 Grayland Ave., 804.646.1329
Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club
They have an Olympic-sized swimming pool that will re-open on July 12
- 3701 R Street in Church Hill, 804.591.3831
photo credit: joepyrek