North Bank Park is located at the south end of Texas Avenue, about five blocks east of the Hampton Street entrance to Maymont. The park is known to many as Texas Beach. A long, singletrack trail leads to many isolated sandy beaches and sunbathing rocks. The park is very popular with dog-walkers. This area has crude trails and only limited maintenance. Be prepared to remove your own trash. The parking lot has 30 spaces. Between October and March, the parks’ location on the north bank of the James means it gets more sunlight, as it is less interrupted and/or blocked by the hillsides along the south bank.
BIKING: The Northbank Trail is an excellent challenge for mountain bikers. The trail is part of the James River Trail loop and runs east to west from the Boulevard Bridge to Oregon Hill. The trail passes below historic Hollywood Cemetery and has many scenic views of the river and the Kanawha Canal. Watch for hikers and stay on the trail to prevent erosion.
HIKING: There is no one way to hike the Northbank section of the James River Park System. As park manager Ralph White likes to say, it might be the best of all the parks at giving you that feeling of being lost in nature and away from urban Richmond. One great destination in the park is to cross the railroad pedestrian walkway and head west on the shoreline river path toward the Boulevard Bridge and Foushee Mill. The walking distance is probably no more than three miles round-trip from the parking lot.
Along the trail, you should find an impressive looking sluice that runs under the CSX tracks and over some huge smooth rocks. Keep heading west about 100 yards to find the Foushee Mill site. This spot is directly south of Maymont, but it may be hard to recognize because of the thick trees and the high train tracks through the woods that block the sights and sounds.
There is nothing overly special about the mostly granite Foushee-Ritchie Mill, even in its history. According to The Atlas of the James, the mill was two stories and was built in 1819 by Dr. William Foushee, who sold it to Thomas Ritchie in 1824. It apparently was damaged and abandoned as a mill in the 1830s, but still maintains a bit of its original form today. The structure is almost 200 years old and has survived flooding, vandalism and Mother Nature’s damages and has maintained its basic shape.
SNORKELING: The shallow waters and calm sands of Texas Beach are a great setting for exploring. It is never as crowded as Pony Pasture, Belle Isle or even the Main Section, which is located across the river on the south bank.
The river slows down a little at North Bank as the nearby VEPCO levee above Belle Isle impedes swift passage. Also, the river turns slightly north to go around Belle Isle, which allows for the north bank to get all the sandy deposits, thus creating more beaches than at most any other spot in the Falls of the James. When the river levels are low, a new world of opportunities opens. With no recent rains, the water should be clear and the bottom is easy to see. The shallow pools and slower rapids make it safer, including for little children. Bring your mask.
One can find fish, turtles, shells, crawdads, snails and weird slimy organisms you’re probably never seen. There are plenty of odd-shaped stones, huge boulders, sunken driftwood and river-bottom features that give snorklers plenty to explore.