The James River Park System - Richmond, VA

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North Geology Tour

Stop 2c: The River Valley

DIRECTIONS: Turn around. Look for the remains of granite structures that once supported a single-lane bridge.

The power of water
Floods from Hurricane Agnes destroyed this bridge in June, 1972, when the river’s height swelled to a record 8.5 m (28 feet).

bridge structure

The extreme rainfall pushed over 8.7 MILLION liters per second (2.3 MILLION gallons of water per second) against this bridge, eventually breaking the bridge apart and sweeping the pieces downstream.

Where did all that water come from?
The James River is 560 km (348 mi) long. Its watershed drains over 27,020 square kilometers (10,432 square miles), about ¼ of Virginia’s land, into the river with rain in the west funneling east towards Richmond.

Large amounts of rain in the James River watershed cause flooding in Richmond. Damage during a flood is caused by debris that is picked up and carried downstream. Rocks and sand act as cutting tools and logs act   as battering rams, all powered by the force of the floodwaters.

debris dam

A "debris dam" of logs and tree trunks along the north bank of Belle Isle

The power of this water has carved the Valley of the James, and floods have destroyed many man-made structures within its floodplain.

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