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Pony Pasture Rapids, James River Park System

Description

Prior to 1970, actual ponies were found at Pony Pasture Rapids, also known simply as Pony Pasture. Today, it is one of the most beloved spots in Richmond for all kinds of outdoor pursuits: paddling, swimming, sunbathing, hiking, running, and wildlife viewing. Because of its popularity, it’s better to visit early in the morning during the week. 

A white-tailed buck on alert but unbothered by people and pets.

A white-tailed buck on alert but unbothered by people and pets. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease/DWR

The site features a network of trails with a few branches leading to, and in some sections, paralleling the James River; a short distance from the parking lot is Half Moon Beach, a good spot to scan the river for waterfowl, double-crested cormorants, and great blue herons. Bald eagles and ospreys cruise overhead in search of fish, while chimney swifts and swallows skim the water. Prothonotary warblers are also common on this side of the park.

Viewing the James River from Half Moon Beach doesn’t require rock scrambling so anyone can see waterfowl, ospreys, and double-crested cormorants. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease

Viewing the James River from Half Moon Beach doesn’t require rock scrambling so anyone can see waterfowl, ospreys, and double-crested cormorants. Photo Credit: Lisa Mease/DWR

The Pleasant Creek trail is closest to Riverside Drive and on most days, can provide a more quiet atmosphere to those in search of one. Woodpeckers, northern cardinals, and wrens are joined in summer by red-eyed and white-eyed vireos, and other neotropicals that breed in the area. Amphibians croak and chirp from the small creek any time it’s warm. 

Like the other sections of the James River park system, migrating warblers drop in in droves. Rarities seem to find their way to this slice of nature, too. A flock of evening grosbeak overwintered here in 2020-2021 during a remarkable irruption year. 

Notes:

  • Areas close to the river are subject to flooding. Check the water levels on the National Weather Service website before heading out.
  • Riverside Drive near the Pony Pasture is closed to automobiles on rainy nights in early March for the protection of mating spotted salamanders.

Directions

Physical Address: 7200 Riverside Dr, Richmond, VA 23225

From I-95 in downtown Richmond, take the VA-195/Downtown Expressway exit and continue onto VA-195 W/Downtown Expressway, keep left at the fork to VA-146 W, merge onto VA-76 S/Powhite Parkway, exit onto Forest Hill Avenue, turn right onto Hathaway Road, continue onto Longview Drive, turn right onto Scottview Drive, slight left onto Riverside Drive, and the parking lot is on the right. This route has tolls; please consult your navigation app of choice for routes without tolls.

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 Pony Pasture Rapids, James River Park System (as reported to eBird)

  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Mourning Dove
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Barred Owl
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker

Seasonal Bird Observations

Facilities

  • Bike Trails
  • Hiking Trails
  • Parking
  • Picnic
  • Restrooms
  • Kayak/Canoe Launch