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5 less-than-obvious things to do on the James River this summer

Explore the the river while exploring a new hobby with one of our outdoor-oriented suggestions

A skyline view of Richmond, VA

The James River is one of Richmond’s most iconic natural landmarks, but it also offers endless ways to spend an afternoon.

Photo by Christopher W. Clarke

Richmond is for paddlers, bikers, runners, walkers, and hikers, but it’s also for birders, climbers, anglers, and other explorers. Whether you’ve only seen the James while driving over bridges or you’re a certified river rat, here are five outdoor activities to try this summer.

📍 Geocaching

Grab your GPS units and get ready to comb the banks of the James — there’s plenty of geocaching by the riverside. There are geocaches hidden all over the River City, just choose your treasure hunt online and start exploring.

🐦 Birding

We’ve written before about what a wonderful city Richmond is for bird lovers. The James River Park System is one of our city’s aviary hotspots. Keep your eyes open especially for herons, owls, ducks, and even bald eagles.

Two birds of prey in flight, seen from below

Birds of prey like raptors, hawks, and osprey can be found along the James River.

Photo via Virginia State Parks

🌿 Plant and wildlife identification

Birds aside, there’s plenty of flightless flora and fauna to be enjoyed along the river. You can spot critters of all kinds along the trails.

If plants are more your thing, Friends of James River Park has resources online to start your plant ID journey. Or, apps like iNaturalist allow you to snap a photo and zero in on an identification in a matter of seconds.

🪨 Climbing

Rock climbing isn’t just for gyms. Though it’s not something you should try without proper training — safety first — there’s a wealth of high-quality bouldering, sport climbing, and even trad climbing on both sides of the river.

If you want to get started, both Peak Experiences and Triangle Rock Club offer skills and safety classes. Pro tip: Both gyms can also help connect you with knowledgeable climbing partners.

A man in a black shirt and beanie attempts (unsuccessfully) to climb a boulder

City Editor David, mere moments before falling off of The Molar (V0), just off the Buttermilk Trail.

Photo by RICtoday

🐟 Fishing

Richmond’s section of the James is an excellent stretch for anglers. Opportunities are omnipresent for fly fishers and bait fishers casting from kayaks, canoes, or right from the shore. In the late spring and early summer, the river runs with bass and shad.

Reminder: Make sure your freshwater fishing license is up-to-date before hauling in your next catch.

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