The Park » About the James River Park System
Below the fall line, east of downtown Richmond, you’ll find some of the lesser known, quieter sections of JRPS — Great Shiplock Park and Chapel Island
Great Shiplock Park
The restored shiplock and working canal lock are part of the historic James River & Kanawha Canal. They mark the lowest lock in a system of locks that once connected the James River with the Richmond Docks. This canal served as transport hub for the tobacco warehouses along Dock Street and extended 197 miles west through Virginia’s mountain ranges.
As part of the Virginia Capital Trail’s construction, Great Shiplock Park underwent a $450,000 renovation in 2013. An interpretive display provides information about the history of the lock system. From these parks you’ll find unique and amazing views of downtown Richmond and amenities such as benches, shade structures, and bike racks.
For access to Chapel Island, take the footbridge across the canal. It was named for the early Episcopal chapel located there and active prior to the 1741 founding of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Church Hill. Here you’ll find places to fish in the tidal James for species such as shad, white perch, rockfish, smallmouth bass, herring, and several types of catfish. There is also a half-mile of winding, wide and flat single-track for hikers and bikers, an accessible boat ramp and a non-motorized boat launch.
In addition, the central gravel path continues west along the island through the retention basin owned by the DPU to the 14th Street boat take-out. The parkland also includes the former Trigg Shipyard, which was built in 1898 and went out of business in 1903. Interpretive signage aids visitors’ understanding of these unique spots and their place in Richmond history.