The James River Park System - Richmond, VA

Science in the Park

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The Water

Water abounds throughout the 550 acres of the James River Park System. From big water rapids to quiet wetlands, the waters of the Park hold a fascinating mix of habitats, plants, and animals. A vernal pool yielded the City’s first documentation of fairy shrimp, an iconic species found in temporary waters. An even bigger surprise has been the return of Atlantic sturgeon, an ancient species of fish thought to be long extirpated from the James. The year 2018 was exceptional. For several weeks during the fall, sturgeon sightings and breaches were an hourly occurrence in 14th St area in downtown Richmond. The later capture of newly hatched sturgeon downstream from Richmond was the first documentation of successful spawning in decades. So, keep your eyes open and your camera ready, as you explore the waters of the Park for species large, small, and possibly newly recorded!

Newton Ancarrow

Newton Ancarrow (1920-1991) was a boat builder who located his business on the south bank of the James River in Richmond in 1962. In 1965, he opened a large boat ramp for his business and for public use, and quickly discovered the river's poor water quality. Ancarrow was enraged when oily, polluted water mixed with sewage coated his ramp and the bottom of his boats after a heavy rain. He began a crusade to force city, state, and federal authorities to clean up the James, and his legacy resonates with us today. Ancarrow's Landing in the James River Park System is his original boat dock and was named in his honor.

In 1974, Ancarrow debuted The Raging James, his film on channelization in the James River. This river ‘restoration’ technique was used along sections of the James from the mountains to Richmond to repair damage from the historic water flows of hurricanes Camille (1969) and Agnes (1972). In honor of the film, he was given the environmentalist of the year award by the Virginia Wildlife Federation in 1974.

Watch the video from Science in the Park on Vimeo.

To see more of Ancarrow’s pioneering documentation of the pre- and early years of the park system, visit the digital archive of his wildflower photographs from the 1960s and '70s.

arrow  Visit the Ancarrow Online Digital Archive

The Spawn

The Spawn from Friends of James River Park on Vimeo.

  Fish and Insects Documented in the Park
Blueback Herring Blueback Herring, Alosa aestivais
Odonates Odonata, Dragonflies and Damselflies
Fairy shrimp Fairy Shrimp, Eubranchipus vernalis
Sturgeon Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus


See animals found in the park.

Species Lists