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James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 6.26'
Flow: 9270 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond


Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 6:48am
Low Tide: 1:36am

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Posted In: Hiking, James River

Texas Beach Trail project offers historic link to James River commerce

Andy Thompson

October 7, 2014 12:33pm
The Texas Beach Trail in winter. Credit:

The Texas Beach Trail in winter. Credit:

There’s a trail that runs along the north bank of the James River — sometimes it almost drops into the river — from the woods behind Pump House Park to the Texas Beach stairs. If you’ve been down to Texas Beach, chances are you started out walking on that trail. Maybe you took it as far upstream as the canal outflow below Maymont, but most people don’t realize that it runs all the way between those two James River Park system parcels. That’s why it’s one of my favorite outdoor spaces in the area. It hides in plain sight. (Click here to see the map of the area and the “Texas Beach Trail.” Click here to take the tour of the trail.)

Yesterday, the T-D’s Rex Springston reported that the Texas Beach end of that trail will soon get a makeover — with a historical flourish. For a couple of months the local Meetup group James River Hikers-Hiking with History has been working on plans to build a long wooden boardwalk a muddy section of trail that starts near the base of the Texas Beach stairs and runs almost to the river. Dennis Bussey, the leader of the group, has written for before, as have other group members. He told me about the plan for the uber-long boardwalk a few months back, and we plan to cover the build as it unfolds later this month.

But here’s what makes it more than just an ambitious addition to the park system: all the material for the project will be brought across the river to the site via bateau.

From Springston’s piece: Michael Burton, the city’s trails manager, said the boardwalk project has “been on my radar screen for several years. The challenge was always getting the materials to the site.”

Here's an example of what a bateau looks like. Credit:

Here’s an example of what a bateau looks like. Credit:

Reaching the site without a boat means parking at a lot by Texas Avenue, hiking down a hill, crossing a bridge over a railroad track, going down stairs and walking some more — a tough, quarter-mile slog for someone hauling lumber. (Group member and contributor Andrew) McRoberts thought of using a bateau. Bussey ran into someone who knew Andrew Shaw, a 25-year-old Charlottesville carpenter who owns a bateau. Bussey contacted Shaw, and a strategy emerged.

Shaw plans to put in his boat at Riverside Meadows, a grassy area just upriver from Pony Pasture Rapids on the river’s south bank. That’s the only place open enough to get the 43-foot-long, 7-foot-wide bateau from a trailer into the river, Shaw said.

Shaw and his four to six crew members plan to pole the boat about 3½ miles, much of it through rapids, to Reedy Creek, a south bank spot where there is truck access. The bateau crew will pick up the materials there and ferry them north to Texas Beach, almost directly across the river. The ferry job probably will take several trips. Then Shaw and his crew will pole the boat back, against the river and its rapids, to Riverside Meadows.

The only catch is that the river needs to be running higher than 4.5 feet (measured at the Westham Gauge) for there to be enough water to maneuver the bateau. Right now the river is at 3.7 feet. The materials transport is scheduled for October 18, but if the river doesn’t come up, it’ll simply be pushed back until there is enough.

Whenever it happens, will be on the scene with a report as well as posting pictures to Twitter and Instagram.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?