There’s an actual metric that will tell you when your chance of dying is too high. Check it before you leave home!
How good is the James River? As our downtown master plan (PDF) says, it’s our great, wet Central Park. It’s also our great, mighty, churning thing that wouldn’t give a second thought to crushing your bones and filling your lungs with water. Luckily, this scenario is more or less avoidable: Just check the river levels before heading out for your enjoyable day on the James River.
By law, if the water level is five feet or more at the Richmond-Westham Gauge, you are required to wear a life jacket in the river.1 You can check the levels over at the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. You’ll see a handy graph that looks like this:
If you forget to check the website before you head out, keep your eyes peeled for signs near your favorite river spots that’ll show that day’s levels. And, please, take those water levels seriously! Don’t screw around with a thunderous river, it does not care about you or your loved ones (despite providing you with a super pleasant way to spend a day out of doors). It only cares about its endless march towards the sea.
Do not believe it when it tells you to march along with it.
- If the water levels are at nine feet or above, you need a special permit to even get in the river. And, at that level, what kind of insane extreme sport are you doing in there? ↩