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Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 3.82'
Flow: 1770 cfps

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Coming Soon: Downtown RVA Osprey Cam

Andy Thompson

@richmondoutside
February 21, 2017 12:27pm

Connor Riley attaches the new sign to the downstream side of the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge.

Yesterday was an exciting day on the river for RichmondOutside.com.

For a couple of years now we’ve batted around the idea of putting a camera on an osprey or eagle nest somewhere in Richmond. Yesterday we got serious. Together with Dave Fary of Riverside Outfitters and local climber/data science entrepreneur Connor Riley, we headed out onto the James from Tredegar Beach with two missions: 1) Reinstall the sign under the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge that led boaters to the safest passage through the Vepco levee and 2) begin preparations for mounting an osprey cam on one of the old Richmond-Petersburg Railroad Railroad bridge pilings.

Both missions were huge successes. The second we think will allow us to show off not only downtown RVA’s abundant wildlife in an intimate way, but the abundant human activity taking place on that stretch of the river as well. In short, we think this osprey cam will be a one-of-a-kind addition to RVA’s river scene.

Riley rock climbs to the top of a Richmond-Petersburg Railroad Bridge piling in the James River.

For mission one, Fary guided our company raft through the Vepco levee underneath the T Pot and into an eddy below one of the bridge pilings. Dozens watched from the above as Riley, a former Navy demolitions expert and experienced rock climber, repelled from the bridge and hung a blue “Falls of the James” sign in place of the “Ashland” sign that had hung there for years.

To get to mission two, Fary navigated the boat through a few small rapids to the now-defunct Richmond-Petersburg Railroad Bridge piling that we’d been told has had an active osprey nest for the past few years. (If you’re standing on the T Pot, it’s the fourth stone piling from the north bank of the James). We’ll eventually need a camera, a solar panel and the battery that the panel charges up there, and the goal for the day was to secure a reliable route to bring the hardware up to the top of the piling.

First impression: this granite beast looks much taller when you’re standing at the base of it. It must have been close to 40 feet to the top. It was slow going, as we set a 27-foot ladder in place and Riley attached anchors to the granite wall. When he reached the top of the ladder, Fary belayed for Riley, who rock climbed the remaining 10-12 feet to the top. From there he could set anchors for the hardware we’ll install hopefully later this week. When we were done, we ran Pipeline Rapids to our takeout at 14th Street.

I’ll be writing more about the osprey cam as we get closer to the launch date. If you happen to be down on Brown’s Island or on the T Pot during the day on Friday, look for us out on the water. We’ll be the guys climbing a giant bridge piling trying to give all of us the best view of bird life — and river life — in Richmond.

The cargo raft on its way to the 14th St. takeout after a successful day on and above the water.


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?


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