Jamestown island formed many thousands of years ago from a series of shoals along the James River. When colonists arrived in 1607, an isthmus connected the island to the mainland, and a "paradise" of virgin hardwoods covered the land.
By 1800, the isthmus had eroded, and the forest had been cleared for farming. In the 1800s, the Ambler and Travis families ran large plantations here. From the island's rim, Confederate forts guarded the river channel during the Civil War.
Today, the loop road around the island affords views of the James River, the marshes, and the regenerating forest.