Belle Isle

Belle Isle (HMFPH)

Location: Richmond, VA 23219
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 32.063', W 77° 26.903'

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Captain John Smith's Adventures on the James

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James River Park System

The Virginia Company of London instructed the first English colonists to choose a river for their settlement and to "let Captain Newport discover how far that river may be found navigable." Following this charge, Newport and a group that included John Smith sailed upriver as far as modern Richmond in late May, 1607.

Richmond straddles the fall line between Virginia's Coastal Plain and the Piedmont region, the limit of navigation for sailing vessels. "We were intercepted with great craggy stones in the midst of the river," wrote Smith, "where the water falleth so rudely, and with such a violence, as not any boat can possibly passe."

Although the rough water delayed the search for gold and a water route to the Orient, it exposed minerals like iron used in the colonists' first industries. The English also recognized the river's capacity for water-powered industry.

In the seven-mile stretch from Bosher's Dam to the Mayo Bridge, the James River drops 105 feet in elevation. Today those rapids power some of the nation's best urban whitewater paddling.

Capt. John Smith's Trail

John Smith knew the James River by its Algonquian name: Powhatan, the same as the region's paramount chief. Smith traveled the river many times between 1607 and 1609, trading with Virginia Indians to ensure survival at Jamestown. What he saw of Virginia's verdant woodlands and pristine waters inspired him to explore the greater Chesapeake Bay, chronicling its natural wonders.Capt John Smith's Trail on the James is a 40-site water and auto tour for modern explorers.

The Capital of the Confederacy

> Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. It combined the special features of industry, finance, trade, and transportation which are visible all around you.

> Straight ahead is Belle Isle: site of an infamous Civil War prison.

> To your left are Brown's Island and the Haxall Canal: site of a munitions factory, which blew up in 1863, killing 30 women workers.

> On the horizon stands the steel and glass tower of the modern Federal Reserve Bank. Richmond was the banking and insurance center of the South based on the tobacco and slave trade.

> Over the road is the current CSX railroad. Richmond had five railroads during the Civil War.

> Further to your left is Tredegar Ironworks, perhaps the largest munitions factory for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

> Behind you up the hill is the Kanawha Canal, the route around the rapids, and the freight highway to the Great Valley of Virginia.
Placed ByCaptain John Smith's Trail, James River Association, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, September 22nd, 2014 at 5:59pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 283669 N 4156972
Decimal Degrees37.53438333, -77.44838333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 32.063', W 77° 26.903'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 32' 3.78" N, 77° 26' 54.18" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)804
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 330 Tredegar St, Richmond VA 23219, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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