Great Shiplock Park/Chapel Island (JRPS)

Photo Credit: Andy Thompson

One of the quieter places to take in the tidal James River is at Great Shiplock Park at Dock and Pear streets in Shockoe Bottom. It has a historic, working canal lock, trails, fishing spots and many great views of the river and downtown. It is also the eastern trailhead for the Virginia Capital Trail.

The site is farthest east of the historic James River & Kanawha canal locks. Built in the 1850s, with the stone lock completed in 1854, the locks allowed ships to bypass the falls of the James and travel into Virginia’s hills by connecting the James with the Richmond Dock. Ships were raised from sea level to the height of the dock in each section of the locks, which accomodated ships as large as 180 feet long by 35 feet wide.

The parkland includes the former Trigg Shipyard, which was built in 1898 and went out of business in 1903. Several ships for the U.S. Navy were constructed there, including the USS Schubrick, a torpedo boat used in the Spanish-American War. The site of the former Trigg shipyard is on the eastern tip of Chapel Island on the south bank of the canal.

What can you do?

Fishing: In the tidal area below the falls, many fish species migrate through in the spring to spawn. The most common are American and hickory shad, herring, and rockfish. You could also see smallmouth bass and several types of catfish.

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