The James River Park System - Richmond, VA

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North Geology Tour

Stop 2: The River Valley

DIRECTIONS: Walk to the middle of the Hanging Bridge, stop, turn and face upstream (water flows towards you).

The water underneath you is flowing from the mountains in the west to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean behind you in the East.

As you look ahead, observe the valley of the James. Look to your right (North) and find the highest point on land. Look to your left (South) and find the highest point in Belle Isle’s tree line. These mark the height of the ancient banks of the river.

river valley

It has taken about 2 million years for the water to cut down into the rock to form this river valley. The river continues to erode the valley, cutting into the earth to expose more rock.

In long-time terms a James River-type system has likely been flowing into the Atlantic Ocean since the Mesozoic (roughly 200 MYA). A river that resembles the James in specific location has likely been flowing through Richmond since the Pliocene Epoch (about 2 MYA), although its course may have varied considerably.

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