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Richmond’s Canal Walk

Richmond’s Canal Walk is the old canal system that was used in Richmond in the 19th Century.  Now, that canal system has been restored, and is a beautiful place to visit to relax, to exercise, to burn off stress, or just to soak in the beauty of it all.  A 3¼-mile walk from one end to the other and back, we start out at the Triple Crossing, the only triple main-line railroad crossing in the world, to the end of the canal system, near Belle Isle and where the canal system rejoins with the James River, and then return from whence we came.  The Canal Walk is in a unique spot in Richmond.  One one side, you have the James River, which the canal system is connected to.  On the other side, the city awaits you, with a quaint restored part of town at one end, and skyscrapers and the “big city” at the other end.  It makes the Canal Walk somewhat of an oasis from all of the stresses and such that come with being in a metropolitan area.

In finding the Canal Walk, and then finding parking for it, I got a crash-course in navigating Richmond, thanks to bad directions from a few different people.  I’d get sent one way, realize the directions don’t work, return to Broad Street, find somewhere else to ask, and repeat.  The third time, I got directions that worked.  What you do is if you’re traveling on East Broad Street (U.S. 250 eastbound), make a right on 14th Street.  That should drop you at the “beginning” end of the Canal Walk, by the Triple Crossing.  Parking is right across the street.

Now that we know where the Canal Walk is, come with me, and so let’s do some walking!  On some of these photos, I’m going to stay quiet, and talk about others.  Additionally, I invite you to click these photos to see them in full-size, and take in the full beauty of what is the Canal Walk, and lose yourself in these photos.


Welcome to the Canal Walk!

Welcome to the Canal Walk!


This is the point where we first join the canal, the first point where human traffic may follow the canal, at least without swimming.

This is the point where we first join the canal, the first point where human traffic may follow the canal, at least without swimming.


In the area of the Triple Crossing, three railroad lines all cross over each other. Norfolk Southern's Richmond District occupies the street level, and CSX's Bellwood and Rivanna subdivisions occupy the middle and top levels.

In the area of the Triple Crossing, three railroad lines all cross over each other.  Norfolk Southern’s Richmond District occupies the street level, and CSX’s Bellwood and Rivanna subdivisions occupy the middle and top levels.

It was also in this spot after leaving the area and trying to find my hotel where I experienced a strange phenomenon – I knew exactly where I was (I could see the Canal Walk below me), but I was completely lost up in the world of highways on the top-level bridge.





Quaint "retro" bridges are a regular feature in this "beginning" end of the Canal Walk.

Quaint “retro” bridges are a regular feature in this “beginning” end of the Canal Walk.



La Difference... a reminder that we really are right in the middle of the city, though seemingly slightly removed from it.

La Difference… a reminder that we really are right in the middle of the city, though seemingly slightly removed from it.






Progress indicator... we will be passing most of these points of interest along the way to the far end of the Canal Walk. Triple Cross is now behind us. Let us continue!

Progress indicator… we will be passing most of these points of interest along the way to the far end of the Canal Walk.  Triple Cross is now behind us.  Let us continue!




An interesting light fixture sits in the middle of a wider part of the Canal.

An interesting light fixture sits in the middle of a wider part of the Canal.



Retro light fixtures complete the look for the Canal Walk, shining their light to guide all who need them by night.

Retro light fixtures complete the look for the Canal Walk, shining their light to guide all who need them by night.




This completes the first "phase" of the Canal Walk - now, let's prepare to pass under the Reynolds Aluminum building, and continue to phase two. The canal will possess a distinctly different character as we continue.

This completes the first “phase” of the Canal Walk – now, let’s prepare to pass under the Reynolds Aluminum building, and continue to phase two.  The canal will possess a distinctly different character as we continue.




One thing that was strange about this area is that we had to take a circuitous path around the Reynolds Aluminum building after going under part of it. This stairwell was just such a thing, making this perhaps the single most unusual part of the entire walk.

One thing that was strange about this area is that we had to take a circuitous path around the Reynolds Aluminum building after going under part of it.  This stairwell was just such a thing, making this perhaps the single most unusual part of the entire walk.


However, the circuitousness of the walk did afford us a view of the old lock system. Nowadays, these locks are bypassed entirely, and the water is pumped from one end to the other.

However, the circuitousness of the walk did afford us a view of the old lock system.  Nowadays, these locks are bypassed entirely, and the water is pumped from one end to the other.



This was the only part where you had to do any guesswork. You went out of a strange door to leave Reynolds Aluminum, and came into this opening. Off to the right of this photo, you went to downtown Richmond. Off to the left, it appeared to dead-end.

This was the only part where you had to do any guesswork.  You went out of a strange door to leave Reynolds Aluminum, and came into this opening.  Off to the right of this photo, you went to downtown Richmond.  Off to the left, it appeared to dead-end.


After what appeared to be a dead end, you pass through the building somewhat to continue the walk. This is the only part of the Canal Walk that is semi-protected from the elements. The rest is fully open-air.

After what appeared to be a dead end, you pass through the building somewhat to continue the walk.  This is the only part of the Canal Walk that is semi-protected from the elements.  The rest is fully open-air.



At this point, the Canal Walk becomes less retro, and becomes more functional, as more modernist fittings, such as the lower of the two bridges in the picture above, replace the more retro-style footbridges of previously.

At this point, the Canal Walk becomes less retro, and becomes more functional, as more modernist fittings, such as the lower of the two bridges in the picture above, replace the more retro-style footbridges of previously.




Completing phase two, we enter into the much more open and bright third phase, with a spectacular view of the high-rises in the distance. As a progress indicator, we've covered a lot of ground, with only the Civil War Center, 7th Street, and Belle Isle still ahead of us.

Completing phase two, we enter into the much more open and bright third phase, with a spectacular view of the high-rises in the distance.  As a progress indicator, we’ve covered a lot of ground, with only the Civil War Center, 7th Street, and Belle Isle still ahead of us.


In addition to the openness, the retro look returns.

In addition to the openness, the retro look returns.






Isn't the water just gorgeous?

Isn’t the water just gorgeous?



At this point, to meet the bridge, the Canal Walk path goes up a number of stairs. The bridge takes you to Brown's Island, which we'll meet up with later.

At this point, to meet the bridge, the Canal Walk path goes up a number of stairs.  The bridge takes you to Brown’s Island, which we’ll meet up with later.


In view of the bridge, we find a few prominent players in the Richmond skyline as seen from the Canal Walk. The Federal Reserve building above is the tallest by far, and then the Riverfront Twin Towers below are also very prominent.

In view of the bridge, we find a few prominent players in the Richmond skyline as seen from the Canal Walk.  The Federal Reserve building above is the tallest by far, and then the Riverfront Twin Towers below are also very prominent.

In view of the bridge, we find a few prominent players in the Richmond skyline as seen from the Canal Walk. The Federal Reserve building above is the tallest by far, and then the Riverfront Twin Towers below are also very prominent.






The bridges in the background of this picture take automobile and railroad traffic across the James River, to parts further south.

The bridges in the background of this picture take automobile and railroad traffic across the James River, to parts further south.




This picture is by far my favorite in the entire bunch, with the Dominion building in the background, with the bridge passing across the canal to it.

This picture is by far my favorite in the entire bunch, with the Dominion building in the background, with the bridge passing across the canal to it.


In the background of this image, we find the bridge to Belle Isle. Traffic takes the top level, as seen in this photograph, while pedestrians take a footbridge slung halfway between the ground and the highway above.

In the background of this image, we find the bridge to Belle Isle.  Traffic takes the top level, as seen in this photograph, while pedestrians take a footbridge slung halfway between the ground and the highway above.



This point officially marks the furthest point of the Canal Walk. From here, the canal connects back with the river, and we prepare to cross the bridge ahead, and head back towards the Triple Crossing.

This point officially marks the furthest point of the Canal Walk.  From here, the canal connects back with the river, and we prepare to cross the bridge ahead, and head back towards the Triple Crossing.



We have reached her! The James River stretches out before us, in all its glory.

We have reached her!  The James River stretches out before us, in all its glory.








Here, you can get a better look at the Belle Isle footbridge in the background of the image.

Here, you can get a better look at the Belle Isle footbridge in the background of the image.


Note the remains of past bridges alongside the foundations for the modern bridges that currently span the river.

Note the remains of past bridges alongside the foundations for the modern bridges that currently span the river.








And now to return to phase two, we are reminded of how close to the heart of the city we actually are, with the Interstate very close by. The brown wall in the background of this photo (third tier up from the water level) is the outer boundary of the Reynolds Aluminum building.

And now to return to phase two, we are reminded of how close to the heart of the city we actually are, with the Interstate very close by.  The brown wall in the background of this photo (third tier up from the water level) is the outer boundary of the Reynolds Aluminum building.


Now where do we go? The answer is, go left, and find that strange door to continue past the locks.

Now where do we go?  The answer is, go left, and find that strange door to continue past the locks.


Near this portion of the Canal Walk are high-rise buildings for SunTrust and Wachovia. Wachovia seemed to be a recurring theme in the Photo Essay Blitz, as I managed to encounter and photograph a building for Wachovia, or its parent company First Union, on every trip.

Near this portion of the Canal Walk are high-rise buildings for SunTrust and Wachovia.  Wachovia seemed to be a recurring theme in the Photo Essay Blitz, as I managed to encounter and photograph a building for Wachovia, or its parent company First Union, on every trip.





This is the Haxall Mill Flume Arch, part of what once was, back in the heyday of the canal system.

This is the Haxall Mill Flume Arch, part of what once was, back in the heyday of the canal system.







And with this, we reach the beginning of the Canal Walk again.

And with this, we reach the beginning of the Canal Walk again.

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