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October
17

Riverfront Canal Walk

History, culture, and nature meet at the Riverfront Canal Walk, one of Richmond's more popular attractions for both locals and tourists. Our real estate agents share what makes this fascinating spot a must-see for everyone. 

Founding and Early Days of the Canal

While the seven-mile falls of the James River offer wonderful recreational and sightseeing opportunities near Richmond homes for sale, they were a serious problem during the Colonial era. The falls served as an obstacle for ships carrying passengers and goods into the western region.

George Washington was the driving force behind the creation of the canal. In 1784, Washington appeared before the Virginia General Assembly to support proposed legislation creating a waterway designed to circumvent the falls.

When the state incorporated the James River Company the following year, Washington was installed as honorary president in recognition of his efforts. The canal was built in sections, with the 197-mile system reaching its final destination of Buchanan in 1851.

During the canal's prime years during the mid-19th century, nearly 200 boats regularly traveled its waters. Unfortunately, the triple threats of flooding, Civil War damage, and growing use of railroads prevented construction from fulfilling Washington's vision of reaching the Kanawha River.

In the late 20th century, the canal gained new life as part of a sweeping development of Richmond's waterfront. After nearly 10 years of design and construction, the Riverfront Canal Walk had its grand opening ceremony on June 4, 1999.

History Medallions

Visitors of all ages love spotting the 22 bronze medallions embedded in the River Walk's path. Each one denotes a specific location or event with historical significance. Some of these include:

  • Electric Trolley, memorializing the world's first commercially successful electric streetcar system right here in Richmond

  • Tidewater Connection Locks, only one of which remains and is visible from two spots along the Canal Walk

  • James River and Kanawha Canal, the iconic structure that ultimately provided the genesis of the Canal Walk

Public Art and Statues

  • While the Tidewater Connection Locks are no longer operational, a large-scale model exhibit sits nearby, just at the end of S. 12th St.

  • As a one-time surveyor and landowner of property west of the Allegheny Mountains, George Washington had a deep understanding of the value in creating easily accessible routes to that region. His foresight ultimately led to the development of the canal system and the rise of Richmond as a commercial center. An exhibit at 139 Virginia St. is dedicated to this story.

About the Riverfront Canal Walk

  • The Canal Walk spans 1.25 miles along the riverfront, with access points at nearly every block from 5th to 17th Streets.

  • Leashed dogs are welcome at the Canal Walk, which is open year-round, 24/7.

  • Once you've explored on foot, get a different view from one of the Riverfront Canal Cruises.

Whether you're buying or selling a home in Richmond, we can provide knowledgeable assistance from start to finish. Contact us at Joyner Fine Properties to learn more.

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