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The Pipeline Trail and Heron Rookery

We consider the Pipeline Trail of of the best-kept secrets in Richmond. And getting there down a metal ladder is part of the adventure.

This trail showcases how unique Richmond is with its partnership of a scenic, raging, historic river with a hip, bustling city. And the heron rookery is a real treat to see!

Pack a picnic lunch in a backback (as you will needs your hands free) so you can stop and eat/relax at one of the sandy river beaches you will encounter. (Note: While we have seen some folks wade into the river here to swim or fish, I personally think the nearby rapids make swimming here too unpredicatble/scary, especially with kids.) So we enjoy the river from the sand.

A Parks and Recs sign states:

"The stairs below lead you to a narrow catwalk that rests on top of a large pipe. It is a wonderful place to watch nature and escape the city if even for just a few minutes. Located underneath the rail line, it follows the river and crosses above the rapids. The pipe you are walking on carries storm water down to the huge holding tank located beyond the Mayo Bridge. (The pipe and treatment plant are the reasons the river is clean today!) The Pipeline Trail leads to a sandy beach. In the Sping there is a good view of the Heron Rookery with its nesting Great Blue Herons. The trail goes upstream about 1.4 mile to Brown's island. The Pipeline Rapids are considered Class III."

What we learned:

  • Herons, the largest wading bird found in the U.S., gather in isolated areas, away from people and are not so easily seen as they are here. This setting says something about the improved quality of the James river, the number of fish, the inaccessibility of the island and the probable lack of racoons. There were no heron nests in 2006; 4 in 2007; 34 in 2008; and upwards of 50+ now. Baby herons are called chicks or hatchlings, and a group of herons is called a sedge or a siege.

  • We live in the coolest city ever!

How to get there:

The Pipeline or Trestle Trail runs along the river at the Riverside on the James condominiums, is easy to access from the Canal Walk at South 12th Street and Byrd streets or from the east end of Brown’s Island. There is parking for only a few cars. Of course, pay attention to river water levels for safety's sake!

For more info, check out:

(NOTE: The metal grid walking surface and access via a ladder may make it unsuitable for pets or persons with disabilities.)

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