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Otter Creek and the James River [MP 60.8 – 63.9]

The area of lowest elevation along the Parkway runs through George Washington National Forest and is located where Otter Creek joins the James River. james-riverThe James River has been a major transportation artery through Virginia for centuries. Although originally planned to provide a navigable waterway from Great Falls at Richmond to the Ohio River, the James River and Kanawha Canal was destined to extend no further west than Buchanan, Virginia. When completed in 1851, it was the primary commercial route in the state. But civil war, floods, and railroads spelled disaster for the canal, causing it to fail within the next thirty years.

james-river-canal-lockThe James River Canal is an important historic landmark. It was the first towpath canal system with locks in the United States, first constructed while George Washington was the canal company’s
honorary president. The James River and Kanawha Canal project was first proposed by George Washington when he was a young man surveying the mountains of western Virginia. He was searching for a way to open a water route to the West, and thought his proposed canal would be the key to helping Virginia to become an economic powerhouse in what would eventually become the United States. A brief history of the canal system may be found in the Blue Ridge Gazette here.

james-river-footbridgeNear the James River Visitor Center, visitors can view the restored Battery Creek Lock originally built between 1845-51, in addition the James River/Otter Creek recreation area offer the Otter Creek campground, restaurant, picnic area, James River foot bridge located at the James River Water Gap (where the James River goes through the Blue Ridge Mountains), extensive hiking trails along Otter Creek and fishing in Otter Lake.

Points of Interest
Virginia Canals & Navigations Society, “Various articles on the James River canal.”
Blue Ridge Gazette A Brief History of the Kanawha Canal Project
CNY Hiking James River Water Gap

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