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The James River is Putting on a Show!

Here’s something to do with the kids today: Head down to the James River and check out a pretty impressive flood. That graph I’ve included is NOAA’s Westham Gauge, a reading of the James’ height just upstream of the Huguenot Bridge. Those storms that blew through Sunday night and Monday morning, took ‘James Brown’ from a reading below 5.5′ last night to just over 13′ this morning. That’s not an unprecedented climb, by any means, but it is extremely fast.

Some of my favorite places to go see the power of the James at flood stage: Pipeline Walkway, Pony Pasture, the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, the southside access bridge to Belle Isle (accessed via the stairs at 21st Street and Riverside Drive then walking east along the trail next to the train tracks to the bridge).

And, by the way, this link on Riverside Outfitters‘ site is a great place to find local river and trail conditions in the future.

The James River just upstream of Mayo Bridge during a 2017 flood. Credit: James River Association
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Richmond Closes James River Park Parking Lots

Times-Dispatch reporter Colleen Curran reports this morning that “starting this weekend, the city of Richmond will close it’s high-traffic parking lots with access to the James River Park System.”

Those lots include: Tredegar Street (access to Belle Isle), Pony Pasture, Pipeline, West 21st Street (on Riverside Drive). The lot closures begin today and continue on the weekends through June 10.

Click here to read Curran’s piece in its entirety.

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Plenty of Action at the RVA Osprey Cam

What a difference three weeks makes!

On March 3 we announced the return of Maggie and Walker, the ospreys we’ve watched at the RVA Osprey Cam for three seasons now, from their wintering grounds in some warmer clime. Here’s what the nest looked like a couple of days into their rebuild on the old bridge piling in the middle of the James River in downtown Richmond.

The osprey nest in early March.

This morning the nest is a very different place, as you can see below.

Ready for eggs…

Ospreys certainly adhere to the maxim that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To them, a plastic bag (and a Kroger apron!) is just good nest-building material. Stay tuned-in as mating and egg-laying will be happening any day.

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From the Superintendent: JRPS 2019 Year In Review

The Friends of the James River Park recently published park Superintendent Bryce Wilk’s 2019 Year in Review on their website, and I thought it worth linking to here to give it a wider audience. It was a big year for the JRPS in many ways in 2019, and Wilk’s piece is a comprehensive rundown of the highlights.

The James River is swollen from recent rains, and as I sit in my office looking over the swirling chocolate milk-like waters, a Kingfisher lands on a Sycamore branch and reflects, viewing the landscape for food and shelter. As I watch, I too reflect. Since I’ve arrived in Richmond, my window overlooking the James has shown me many great things and I’ve seen the wonderful opportunities the City has to offer. This past year or so has certainly given me much to reflect upon.

January 22nd is a special day for me – for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it’s my wife’s birthday. January 22, 2019 was also my first day as the James River Park System’s (JRPS) Superintendent. It marked my first introduction to the Richmond community as I attended a city district meeting presenting the Park’s Master Plan.

When I first interviewed for the Superintendent position, I sat at the end of a large table with 10 individuals who formed a panel created specifically to fill this special position. What struck me immediately was the contribution of the community. Most of these folks were not paid employees of the City. These were citizens and volunteers and stakeholders that contribute to the vibrancy of Richmond and our JRPS. As I left the interview, I had the sense that were I fortunate enough to earn this position, I would enter with a built-in network of passionate and engaged people who would do anything to support the JRPS and see me succeed.

Click here to read the rest…

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Riverrock Announces ‘Monsters of the James’ Kayak Fishing Tournament for 2020

Dominion Energy Riverrock will hold the festival’s first-ever fishing tournament with the ‘Monsters of the James’ challenge taking place on Saturday, May 16, at 7 a.m., in partnership with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Registration is currently open for the catch-and-release tournament, where teams of one or two anglers will put in at Ancarrow’s Landing and paddle kayaks or canoes in the James River in search of catfish. The overall winners will be determined based on the cumulative length of a team’s three largest catfish.

“Dominion Energy Riverrock is a celebration of the James River and all the adventure opportunities it provides in Richmond, so it makes perfect sense to bring this new challenge to the festival,” said Megan Schultz, Director of Events for Sports Backers. “The kayak and paddle events in the James are always popular with participants and spectators and the anglers taking part will bring even more excitement to the festival experience.”

The competition will begin at approximately 7 a.m., following a ‘blast off’ notification from the tournament director, and all competitors must be back at the Ancarrow’s Landing launch area by 1 p.m. For scoring purposes, anglers should photograph any fish that they wish to enter on a measuring board, and to be eligible for scoring, all fish must be released alive. During the event, DGIF officials will handle all on-water operations taking place.

The author (left) and Capt. Mike Ostrander with a big James River blue catfish.

“The Monsters of the James fishing contest will showcase the world-class blue catfish fishery that we have in the James River. These are some of the biggest fish available to anglers in Virginia. They regularly exceed 60 pounds, and they are found right in Richmond’s backyard,” said Dr. Mike Bednarski, DGIF Chief of Fisheries. “We’re very excited to see the results and to have fishing highlighted as the adventure sport that it is at Dominion Energy Riverrock.”

The total score will consist of the cumulative length of the team’s three largest catfish. Species allowed are blue, flathead, channel, and white catfish, as well as yellow, brown, or black bullhead. All teams must be registered by May 2, and the competition will be capped at 25 teams. Click here for more!

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Ospreys Maggie, Walker Return to Their RVA Nest!

Four years ago, we erected a camera on an abandoned bridge piling in downtown Richmond in the hopes that the pair of ospreys that had nested there for years would return from their wintering grounds to make babies in RVA.

And they did! It was amazing watching their daily efforts at nest building, incubating eggs in fair and foul weather, feeding their young fish caught below them in the James River and more. We even had an online naming contest for the adults (because they’re the ones that return to the same nest year after year), with the winning names — Maggie and Walker — receiving hundreds of votes.

Three bald eagle eggs at our Maryland camera near the Potomac River.

They’ve returned every year since, but we still feel a sense of anticipation and a bit of dread every year around this time. Will they show up? Are they both still healthy? Well, we’re happy to say, Maggie and Walker are back. They were first spotted this past Sunday on the nest near Brown’s Island and the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. Another nesting season is upon us!

Check out the action, and the sister bald eagle cam on the Potomac River (where three eggs have already been laid), at www.wildstreaming.com.

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Meet Greg Velzy: James River ‘ParkStar’

The Friends of the James River Park just released the latest in their ongoing video series about people making a difference in and around the park. Click here or see below to watch the video.

From the Friends’ website: In addition to being a Board Member for the Friends of James River Park, Greg Velzy is the longest-serving Board Member of the James River Outdoor Coalition, Chair of the Falls of the James Scenic River Advisory Committee, and Council Member of the James River Advisory Council. Why is he so busy? Because his 50 years in Richmond have made him fall in love with the river and our Park.

Greg enjoys the Park for hiking, running, and especially paddling. Like many of us, he admires the “Grass Roots” nature of the support for the Park. He considers himself one of many who are inspired to contribute to the health of the James River Park System. He also told us that one need not found an organization or join a non-profit to make a difference. The average Park user can exact change during a simple visit by stopping for just a second and picking up a piece of trash.

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A Mid-Session Update from the 2020 General Assembly

Our friends at the JRA recently released a mid-session report on how their river-focused priorities are faring at the General Assembly. These range from fencing cattle out of streams to managing menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay to regulating above-ground storage tanks.

They have a separate breakout for Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed budget and the House and Senate appropriations committees’ suggested changes to that budget. “As you may recall, Governor Northam proposed record-setting funding for Virginia’s natural resources,” the JRA writes. “While the General Assembly has pared this funding back, we remain hopeful that clean water programs will get a much-needed boost in 2021.”

Specifically, they address where things stand on helping farmers protect their local streams, tackling stormwater challenges, and upgrading wastewater treatment plants on the James River.

There’s a lot to dig into in the piece. Click here to get educated about these issues…

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Surf’s Up at Fish Ladder

Some people have the tools to take advantage of the James at flood stage. Our friend Adam Tremper is one of those people. Check out the video of Tremper surfing the Fish Ladder rapid under the T Pot Bridge on Richmond.com (shot by Joe Mahoney).

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Big Water Coming This Way!

If you’ve been following the forecast over the past 24 hours, you know some serious rain will lash Richmond starting later today. That same drenching rain will also hit the mountain headwaters of the James River, and that means we’re in for flood conditions come this weekend in downtown RVA.

If rain projections hold, “James Brown” could rise to nearly 16 feet (at the Westham Gauge) by 8 a.m.(ish) Saturday. Currently, it sits at just under 6 feet. That’s a 10-foot wall of water coming this way. The height could approach last February’s 16-footer, which was the highest the James had been in Richmond since 2010.

Makes me wonder how much of Sharp’s Island will actually be an island. Will it look like this?

Or will the situation more resemble this archival pic from Times-Dispatch in the 1950’s?

No matter what the crest, the James is always an amazing sight at water levels like the ones expected this weekend. Do yourself a favor and get down there.

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