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Belle Isle, James River Park System

Description

The human history on Belle Isle predates the arrival of Europeans. Over the centuries, it was home to a Powhatan settlement, a rich fishery, a 19th-century ironworks, a 20th-century hydroelectric plant, and most tragically, a notorious Confederate Army prisoner-of-war camp. Today, it is an immensely popular location for outdoor recreation and wildlife watching in the Richmond area. Like the other James River Parks, it can be crowded, especially on weekends and holidays.

Cliff Swallow nests under the Lee Bridge. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease

Cliff Swallow nests under the Lee Bridge. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease

Accessing Belle Isle requires crossing the James River on a suspended pedestrian bridge. Look overhead in summer to see the cliff swallows who nest under the vehicle bridge above, scan the river for waterfowl, double-crested cormorants, and great-blue heron, check the skies for bald eagles, osprey, and peregrine falcons, and inspect the rocks and bridge pillars for gulls.

Scan the rocks, islands, and bridge pillars for gulls, waterfowl, and long-legged waders like this great blue heron. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease

Scan the rocks, islands, and bridge pillars for gulls, waterfowl, and long-legged waders like this great blue heron. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease

Belle Isle offers a unique combination of habitats including open fields, dense woodlands, cliffs, a pond, and views of Hollywood Rapids, which are part of the seven miles of rapids that make up the Fall Line. Good birding may be had here all year, with the best opportunities during migrations. More than 20 species of warblers have been seen here, including blue-winged and Nashville. In winter, look for waterfowl, including bufflehead, mergansers, and American black ducks. Rarities appear on and around these 54 acres frequently. One recent winter, a painted bunting and a glaucous gull occurred at the same time.

Notes:

Directions

Physical Address: 300 Tredegar St., Richmond, VA 23219

From I-95 North, take Exit #74-C/US 250/Broad Street. Turn west on US 250/Broad Street and continue 0.5 miles to 5th Street. Turn left and take 5th Street south 0.6 miles to Tredeger Street. Turn right and continue 0.3 miles to the parking lot under the railroad trestle. Follow the walkway along Tredegar Street towards the Dominion Energy building. The suspension footbridge that crosses the river and provides access to Belle Isle is located under the Robert E. Lee Bridge.

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: Friends of the James River Park: friends@jamesriverpark.org; City of Richmond: 804-646-5733, AskParkRec@richmondgov.com
  • Website
  • Access: Free, Daily

Birds Recently Seen at Belle Isle, James River Park System (as reported to eBird)

  • Canada Goose
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Carolina Wren
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Cedar Waxwing

Seasonal Bird Observations

Facilities

  • Bike Trails
  • Accessible
  • Hiking Trails
  • Information
  • Interpretive Trail
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms
  • Historical Site