Going Outside with Richmond Recreation

Most would agree that Richmond, Virginia is the best town ever.  And by most, I don’t mean those that just happen to live there.  I mean an actual, bona fide ballot conducted by Outside Magazine.  And if you don’t believe me, you can check out the October issue (35th anniversary edition) of the magazine.  It’s on newsstands now.  That would be Richmond on the cover.

Reflections of Richmond and the James River

Outside Magazine partnered with American Rivers, a leading fresh water nonprofit, to conduct this tributary tally.  Fifty cities were evaluated on aspects such as environmental stewardship, cost of living, cultural vibrancy, access to the outdoors and job prospects.  After narrowing it down to 10 cities, the voting was turned over to Facebook fans.

Fans then voted for, and left comments about, their favorite river town, those cities that take a serious interest in outdoor recreation and environmental responsibility.  The winner was chosen by a combination of votes and comments about the town by these outdoor enthusiasts and river rooters.

Among others, the ten contestants included Hood River, Oregon; Asheville, North Carolina; Durango, Colorado; Boise, Idaho and Nashville, Tennessee.  Richmond racked up 9,315 votes – more than the next five towns combined.  Hood River, Oregon came in second with 6,500 votes.

Following is the list of top ten river towns (with their respective rivers in parenthesis):

  • Richmond, Virginia  (James River)
  • Hood River, Oregon  (Columbia River)
  • Nevada City, California  (Yuba, American and Bear Rivers)
  • Boise, Idaho  (Boise, Payette and North Fork Rivers)
  • Durango, Colorado  (Animas River)
  • Missoula, Montana  (Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers)
  • Nashville, Tennessee  (Cumberland River)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin  (Kinnickinnic, Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers)
  • Asheville, North Carolina  (Nantahala and French Broad Rivers)
  • Ithaca, New York  (Cayuga Lake, Finger Lakes National Forest and gorges)

Richmonders have always known the merits of their city.  Kayakers, mountain bikers, hikers, rock climbers and sightseers alike can enjoy the James River and its backdrop of the downtown Richmond skyline.  Every spring, extreme athletes from all over convene upon the downtown riverfront for the Dominion RiverRock Festival, a three day event featuring extreme sports such as slacklining, kayaking, mountain biking, mud runs, ziplining and a bunch of other stuff that I would never try myself.  There are also dog events and concerts.

Kayakers navigating the James River.

Richmond is the only urban capital with class III and IV rapids running through its downtown scene.  Bald eagles nest along the river, the same river that Captains Christopher Newport and John Smith sailed up from Jamestown back in the day (1607 to be exact).  There are smooth areas of the river as well, perfect for stand-up paddleboarding and peaceful kayaking.

The James River from Belle Isle.

Already a great mountain biking spot, a brand new Bike Skills Area has been built at Belle Isle.  The official dedication ceremony was last weekend and I just missed it by a few hours.  That’ll teach me to sleep in on a Saturday morning.  Conveniently located under the Lee Bridge, to eliminate run-off and damage to the dirt bumps from rain and weather, this cool park was built out of repurposed city materials and designed by the International Bicycling Association.  Bumps, logs, hills, and boulders allow bikers to practice their skills in a safe space.

Belle Isle’s new Bike Skills Area

Boulders and logs to test your biking skills.

The bumps at Belle Isle.

Biking the bumps beneath the Lee Bridge.

Pretty flowers provide background for the Bike Skills Area.

Bumping through the wooded area.

Handcrafted wooden sign at Bike Skills Area.

The gorgeous sign was provided by the skilled artisans at Dreaming Creek – authentic architectural timbering.

Dreaming Creek handcrafted sign at Bike Skills Area.

Here’s another thing you might often see along Richmond’s James River.  Look closely.

Swingin’ out into the James River.

Voting for Outside’s best town ever was also based on the enthusiasm of its residents.  It turns out that Richmond has enough enthusiasm for many larger cities put together.  Several comments were posted by top outdoor and recreation experts, as well as public relations representatives from many of the city’s top tourist attractions, all touting the merits and awesomeness that is Richmond.  Governor Bob McDonnell even gave an endorsement via Twitter.  Perhaps more creatively, and definitely athletically, 14 kayakers held up signs while floating down the James River.  Yep, that’s us.  We’re Richmond and we’re proud of our river city.

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