Trail of the Month: June 2006
James River Heritage Trail, Virginia
Traveling through the heart of Lynchburg, the James River Heritage Trail is one of the premier urban trails in the state. Combining two smaller trails, the Blackwater Creek Bikeway and RiverWalk, the trail is composed of a diverse geography.
On this trail, you will pass lush forestland as well as historic, industrial downtown Lynchburg. Lynchburg was established in 1757 by John Lynch and thrived economically as a center for tobacco trade which was made possible by Lynch who started a ferry service and also built Lynchburg's first bridge across the James River.
This trail is more than eight miles long, and offers multiple, easy connections to other trails along its entire route. It is incredibly well marked with trail signs and mileage markers, and definitely a trip not to miss if you are in the area.
Begin your journey at the impressively maintained Blackwater Creek Bikeway trailhead, which has a pleasant garden and immaculate facilities. The Bikeway accounts for the first three-mile section of the trail and was the first section of the James River Heritage Trail to be completed. The Bikeway is a great place to visit in the summer due to the large amount trees that create a cool shaded path despite the usually hot temperatures.
As you descend into the forested canyon, carved out by the creek, you will run into a trail junction for the 1.3-mile Kemper Station Trail to the south and the 1.7-mile Point of Honor Trail to the north. Both of these paved trails are considered part of the James River Heritage Trail system and are great side trips off the main track. Just beyond this intersection is the entry to the Hollins Mill Tunnel. The more than 500-foot-long tunnel is lit and carved into the canyon wall. The cool rock walls provide welcome relief on a hot summer's ride.
After passing through the tunnel, the Point of Honor Trail re-intersects with the Blackwater Creek Bikeway at the bottom of a long descent. Beyond this intersection the Blackwater Creek Bikeway comes to an end and becomes the RiverWalk. For the next mile the trail swings along the edge of downtown Lynchburg's RiverWalk before crossing a spectacular old railroad bridge onto Percival's Island. The trail traverses the one-mile length of the island before crossing a second former rail bridge to the eastern shore of the James River. The James River, named after King James I of England, is 360 miles long and is the largest river within Virginia borders. The river played a central role in early Virginia commerce which was dominated by tobacco, iron and steel. The trail continues for another two miles along the river's edge until reaching an endpoint after eight miles and about three-quarters of a mile past the last trail access point located off of Fertilizer Road. When you reach the endpoint, the railroad corridor clearly continues and there are plans to extend this wonderful trail in the future.