There is a new sign up at the takeout at Huguenot Flatwater, the western-most parcel of the James River Park, located just west of the Huguenot Bridge. There are several interesting tidbits on the sign that were new to me, and cleared up several property rights in that area of the river. We know Ralph White […]
There is a new sign up at the takeout at Huguenot Flatwater, the western-most parcel of the James River Park, located just west of the Huguenot Bridge. There are several interesting tidbits on the sign that were new to me, and cleared up several property rights in that area of the river.
We know Ralph White loves his signs and this one has plenty of history and suggestions for the area above and below Huguenot Flatwater. From the sign:
“Three miles of muscle-powered paddling”
Things to see and do: Sand bars along the north shore are fine places to picnic and for kids to splash in the shallow water. You may bring a charcoal grill, but please do not make fires on the ground as this destroys the quality of the resource for others. (Obviously, you must carry away all litter).
Underwater rocks are good places to fish and snorkel. The small mounds of rock in the middle of the river immediately to the left (of the takeout) are remnants of the foundation of the original Westham Bridge — 1950s fore-runner of the modern Huguenot Bridge to your right. Big rocks near the south shore at the bend of the river 1/2 mile upstream offer a greater array of underwater cracks and crannies to explore.
Small mounds of pebbles in the late spring and early summer are the nests of dace, chubs and various minnows. Bowls of sand are the nests of sunfish and bass. one distinctive small fish has delicate, light blue fins. This is a Satinfin Shiner in breeding color. Small fish with red eyes are juvenile small mouth bass. A very common small fish with a line down the side is a dace.
Exposed rocks at Bosher’s Dam make a nice picnic and fishing destination. Be aware, however, that some pieces of rock were blasted with dynamite and have sharp edges. Many have a natural slippery coating of algae and fungal cells. This is a fine food for aquatic insect larvae, but you must watch your footing.
Fish ladder access is restricted, but you can peer over the top in places to see the dry channel and the twisted pathway of baffles that slow the water in early spring and help shad and rockfish migrate up stream. A display at the top describes the details of how it attracts fish and passes them through.
A word of caution: The shoreline along the south is entirely private property. Please respect their ownership and do not stop your boat there. It is the river, its rocks and sand bars that are set aside for public use.
History: The Huguenot Flatwater section of the river is named for the French Protestant refugees who settled about 10 miles upstream in the early 1700s in what is now Powhatan County. Known for their diligent work ethic and fine craft skills, many had also once been mercenary soldiers in Europe who had helped the English army restore a Protestant to the throne of England. In return, they were given land and supplies in the New World to settle in a former village site area that had been abandoned by the Manikin Indians. They were known as “Huguenots” for their adherence to a Swiss political movement lead by Besancon Hugues.
Geology: The first granite intrusions appear here just below Bosher’s Dam. These mark the beginning of the Fall Line — the 1000 mile long geological scar that marks the collision between the continents of Africa and North America about 240 million years ago. Comprised of the roots of old volcanoes, these rocks create clusters of rapids that stretch for the 7-mile width of this scar…and end at what is now the Mayo Bridge (14th or Hull Street Bridge) where the flat tidewater section begins. When you go downtown, you may note that the drop becomes increasingly steep in its last mile, so the biggest rapids are between Belle Isle and Mayo Island. And this is the area of the original water-powered mills that made Richmond famous.
Moonlight canoeing: The night before the full moon, in late June, July and August, when the river is low and slow and warm, consider paddling west into the Technicolor sunset and floating back in your lifejackets staring up into the black and white world of moonlight. Although the park itself is technically closed, it is permitted to be on the river at night and your car will not be ticketed if you are out on the water. Be sure to bring a flashlight and insect repellent!
Disabled paddling: Easy access, calm water, and convenient parking makes this an ideal place for persons with physical disabilities to enter the river to canoe and kayak. Special programs are sometimes set up by the McQuire Veterans Hospital and other re-hab hospitals. Park staff may be available to help. 646-8911.
This is not a motor boat launch site. Provisions of the land gift prohibit motor boat access. You may occasionally see a small outboard motor boat. These are from a long-established private fishing club and they have a private access. You should not encounter any high speed boats or jet skis on this 3-mile section of river.
River level information:646-8228 x option #4. Listen for the “Westham Gauge” reading. Listen to the end of the tape to hear the projection for the next several days. By far the best boating occurs in the 3.5 to 4.5 range. It is difficult to paddle upstream at levels above 5 feet.
By law, lifejackets are required to be worn at levels about 5 feet and kept in the craft at levels below that…the river is closed to recreation at levels above 9 feet for all users except those experts with a special High Water use Permit.
Sign funded by Matt Perry / Riverside Outfitters, May 2011