Geology of the Fall Zone

Visiting the James River Park in Richmond is an educational geologic experience in itself. Real examples of the processes that have shaped and continue to change our physical landscape are underfoot and all around you.

We hope that you will use these resources to discover the fascinating history of the tectonic and human activity in our own back yard. EXPLORE!

The two James River Park Geology Tours – north and south – are easy walking examinations of the geology of the James River in Richmond with a sprinkling of local history and fun facts.

North Tour

Difficulty: Easy • Length: 3.2 km (2 miles)

The North GeoTour walk includes 10 stops. The Hanging Bridge and gravel trails are handicap accessible, although access to the rocks requires assistance. Port-a-johns and trash receptacles are available.

The North Tour begins near the Tredegar St. parking lot at the top of the ramp to the Hanging Bridge (under the Lee Bridge/ Belvidere St.) and continues along the northern bank of Belle Isle.

Geology Tour Glossary (PDF)

headphone icon Audio tour:

Printable tour:

South Tour

Difficulty: Easy • Length: 2.2 km (1.5 miles)

The South GeoTour walk includes 10 stops. The tour will take you over uneven terrain and on a staircase making this tour NOT handicap accessible. Rest rooms and trash receptacles are available at the top of the pedestrian bridge crossing the railroad tracks.

The South Tour begins near the 22nd St. parking lot and continues along the southern bank of the James River adjacent to Belle Isle.

Geology Tour Glossary (PDF)

headphone icon Audio tour:

Printable tour:

Lesson Plans

Taking students to James River Park in Richmond can be an educational experience in itself. Just being on the river and showing students real examples of tectonic activity in their own back yard can be a powerful tool to help students grasp many of the concepts taught in Earth Science.

This activity and chart place geologic events into a time scale with important Virginia events noted.

The geologic forces that shaped the Fall Zone are many. In this activity, students can use the laws of relative dating to determine the age of intrusions and faults. 

Before students can appreciate the Petersburg Granite and know that it is made of the minerals quartz, feldspar, and biotite, they should know what a mineral is. This activity will help students become familiar with how a mineral is defined.

The James River is a sediment-making machine that has weathered the igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Piedmont and deposited them in the Coastal Plain to become sedimentary rock – a perfect example of the rock cycle at work. Weathering and erosion are steps in the rock cycle that are difficult to teach in the confines of a classroom. Here are two activities that reinforce the scientific method and give students a first-hand look at geologic processes.

While walking in the park, students can help keep the park beautiful for others by collecting trash that has been improperly disposed of. At the end of your experience, they can classify the trash into things made from renewable or nonrenewable materials by completing this activity.

© 2020, Science in the Park • Questions? Contact Anne Wright, [email protected]