Popular Spot on the Southside
One of the most popular swimming and sunbathing spots in the JRPS, Pony Pasture Rapids receives almost a quarter of a million visitors annually. The main entrance is located off Riverside Drive two miles east of the Huguenot Bridge. This entrance has the largest parking lot in the JRPS, but still, on nice days it can be difficult to find a parking spot. Be prepared to wait in line or find an alternate method of travel to the park (bike, walk, carpool).
Possibly the biggest attraction to Pony Pasture is the rapids. Rated at class II, the rapids are part of the James River’s main channel. With the aid of park volunteers and funding from area recycling projects, the JRPS built steps that lead directly into the river and are fully equipped with a canoe launch, also suitable for kayaks and rafts. While most people swim and play in the rapids or sunbathe on the rocks, there is much more to do in this outdoor gem. There are miles of trails in the park, offering views of the river, inland meadows, wildlife and a wide variety of trees. The main trails are gravel and are good for trail runners and cyclists. Along the banks you find fishermen. Other frequent visitors are birdwatchers and dog walkers. This parcel connects to The Wetlands park, located just to the east of Pony Pasture.
Historical Importance for the Park
This section is also the historic foundation for the entire JRPS. Fearing the loss of this natural gem, local citizens Louise Burke and Dr. R. B. Young formed the Scenic James Council (1966) to oppose a proposed highway construction along the south side of the James. In 1967 they hosted a “Farewell to the River” hike for a Girl Scout troop and a newspaper reporter. The resulting publicity galvanized public support to protect the natural beauty of the property that became the Pony Pasture Rapids and Huguenot Flatwater portions of the Park.
How Pony Pasture got its Name
Prior to the City’s 1970 annexation, Pony Pasture was part of Chesterfield County and it was also a pony pasture. According to Michele Garrigan, who housed her ponies there in the mid 1960s, the pasture was home to a number of horses and ponies owned by families living in the houses nearby. Read more »
(all photos courtesy of Michele Garrigan)