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Posted In: Birding, Features, Hiking

Riverfront park offers abundant solitude

Leonard Adkins

November 11, 2014 9:10am
Entering the boardwalk at Appomattox Regional Riverfront Park. Credit: Leonard Adkins

Entering the boardwalk at Appomattox River Regional Park. Credit: Leonard Adkins

According to the federal government, the greater Richmond area has a population of about 1.3 million. I cite this because, with this large number of people, I’m always surprised when I go somewhere for a walk and don’t encounter even one other person. It recently happened again, and more amazing to me, it was on a beautiful Saturday afternoon of a holiday weekend.

It was a little disconcerting when Laurie and turned off the main road and went by the Riverside Regional Jail to reach the parking lot for the Appomattox River Regional Park. However, once on the trail system, there were no more thoughts about those contained behind concrete walls and razor wire fences.

The park was established in 2003 with just 20 acres, but has grown to include about 80 acres with a trail system that has, if you were to walk every inch of it, maybe close to three miles of pathways. You can thank the volunteers of the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River for planning and helping to construct such a nice network of footpaths into the park’s varied environs.

From the parking lot, Laurie and I descended on the Red Trail, soon crossing over the Cameron Bridge (check out the rock work on this thing!), and turning right to follow the Yellow Trail which loops into a woods whose lush vegetation (mostly) blocked out the sounds of nearby I-295, as well as views of the Appomattox River a few yards below. Helping to make the forest appear to be so lush was a variety of vines, including coral honeysuckle, jasmine vine, grape vines, and, of course, copious amounts of poison ivy.

The park has a non-motorized boat put-in. Credit: Leonard Adkins

The park has a non-motorized boat put-in. Credit: Leonard Adkins

We returned to the Red Trail, leading us down to the river and an observation pier jutting quite a number of yards into the river. To the east, traffic moved across the I-295 bridge; directly across the river was the open green space of Point of Rocks Park. There may have been no one else in the Appomattox River Regional Park with us, but the river was being well used by pleasure boaters who sped by us, seemingly wanting to go as fast as possible, and anglers meandering along in their jon boats at the much slower pace of a trolling motor. A couple of raptors flew overhead, while several ducks floated lazily below us next to the pier.

A newer portion of the trail system uses a boardwalk to take visitors across a wetlands populated by moisture-loving plants such as arrow arum, which grew in a large, dense colony that covered acres of soggy soil. This portion of trail came to an end next to a canoe/kayak launch and a picnic pavilion that was so new that there was still sawdust on the ground from where workers had, evidently, just finished cutting the lumber for the roof and the picnic tables. How could it be that no one was here using these facilities—which can be easily reached by a dirt road—on such a gorgeous holiday weekend?

The Appomattox River. Credit: Leonard Adkins

The Appomattox River. Credit: Leonard Adkins

It was an easy ascent that returned us to our car. Yes, it may be a bit of a drive from downtown Richmond, but you can be assured we’ll be returning often to savor the unvisited solitude of this park.

Getting There: Drive 1-95 southward to near Hopewell, take Exit 54 and merge onto Temple Avenue (VA 144) toward Fort Lee/Hopewell. Continue 3.2 miles, turn left onto River Road and, just after passing the regional jail in 3.5 miles, turn left onto the road marked as leading to the park.

About Leonard Adkins

Leonard M. Adkins has hiked more than 19,000 miles exploring the backcountry areas of the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, including his five traverses of the full length of the Appalachian Trail. He is the author of more than 17 books on the outdoors, nature, and travel; his latest is "Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including Detailed Maps, GPS, and More." Paraphrasing a famous American humorist, Leonard once said, “I never met a trail I didn’t like.” Find more about him at www.habitualhiker.com.