The James River is forecast to reach minor flood stage in Richmond
Rainy and overcast days are moving on just in time for Memorial Day weekend. As parks begin to reopen and you make plans to enjoy the outdoors this holiday weekend, the James River Association encourages you to continue enjoying the outdoors responsibly during this period of social distancing. While enjoying the outdoors, please remember to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people and refrain from gathering in large groups.
River flooding is expected in the Town of Buchanan and the City of Richmond this weekend. The western part of the James River basin saw heavy rainfall this week, which is causing river flooding. The James River is at minor flood stage in the Town of Buchanan as of today and is forecast to reach minor flood stage in the City of Richmond by Saturday. The James becomes dangerous at flood stage and river recreation is not advised.
While the James River may not be safe for outdoor recreation this holiday weekend, Shenandoah National Park will begin a phased reopening tomorrow, campgrounds at Virginia State Parks are reopening, and some public beaches in Virginia Beach are reopening today. The James River Association encourages you to use the list of parks and public lands below to help plan outdoor recreation activities this holiday weekend. Continue to be well and enjoy the outdoors this Memorial Day weekend!
Federally Managed Parks and Public Lands
The Blue Ridge Parkway is open but sections of the parkway are closed as are many facilities. The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed between Mileposts 0 and 13, which includes the popular Humpback Rocks area. The Peaks of Otter Visitor Center at Milepost 85.9 is also closed.
Colonial National Historical Park visitor centers are closed and Colonial Parkway is open to pedestrians and bicyclists. Colonial National Historical Park’s visitor centers at Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield are closed. Colonial Parkway is closed to vehicular traffic between Route 199 and Jamestown Island but open to pedestrians and bicyclists. Jamestown Island Loop Road, Yorktown Tour Roads, Yorktown National Cemetery, Yorktown Victory Monument and Main Street are open to pedestrians and in most cases bicyclists. Visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing and to not gather on the beaches along the James River.
Fort Monroe National Monument is open with restrictions. Beach access is limited to walking and exercise only, all public programming is suspended, and vehicular access to Fenwick Road north of De Russy Field is prohibited.
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is working to safely reopen closed sites. Check the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Recreation Conditions Report.
Richmond and Petersburg National Battlefield Parks are open but visitor centers are closed and facilities are closed. Richmond National Battlefield Park visitor centers are closed through June 10, 2020. Park battlefields and trails are open. Petersburg National Battlefield’s visitor center, contact stations, and restrooms are temporarily closed.
Shenandoah National Park is reopening. Shenandoah National Park will begin its phased reopening at 8:00 am Saturday, May 23. During this phase Old Rag, Whiteoak Canyon, and their associated trails, as well as all boundary trailheads and picnic areas remain closed. Skyline Drive and other trails will be open from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm Entry fees apply and restrooms are limited.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuges are open whenever possible. During the current public health emergency outdoor recreation sites at national wildlife refuges will remain open to the public whenever possible.
State Parks and Public Lands
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries sites are open. Wildlife Management Areas and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries lakes and rivers remain open. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is encouraging people to check with their local government for additional closures to parks, lakes, or piers. All hunting and fishing licence requirements and regulations are enforceable. Visit Go Outdoors Virginia to purchase a license.
Virginia State Parks are open for day-use activities and campgrounds are open. Virginia’s State Parks remain open for day-use activities and restrooms, campgrounds (except at Twin Lakes State Park, where the septic system is being repaired), camping cabins, and yurts are opening Memorial Day weekend.
Most publicly accessible Virginia Natural Area Preserves are open. 17 of the 20 Virginia Natural Area Preserves that offer public access are open to the public. The Channels Natural Area Preserve, Bull Run Mountain Natural Area Preserve, and Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve are closed.
The Virginia Capital Trail is open. The Virginia Capital Trail is open for outdoor activity, exercise, and essential transportation. The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation is encouraging users to practice social distancing on the trail by maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other users.
Before visiting a local park, be sure to check with your local government for information about closures and use restrictions.
Justin Doyle is the James River Association’s Community Conservation Manager. The James River Association’s Community Conservation Program promotes conservation and responsible stewardship of our natural resources and helps communities realize the benefits of a healthy James River.