“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

The Power of Moving Water

Everything before you has been shaped by the River.

The Power of Moving Water Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, March 31, 2013
1. The Power of Moving Water Marker
Inscription. Click to hear the inscription.  The ancient river bank is the top of the hill before you. Floodwaters have slowly carved out the valley of the James. The Hollywood Cemetery is now 80 feet above the River.

The rocks in front of you have a dome-topped, curvy, turtle shell appearance. Mud in the water grinds off the edges. Mother Nature makes things rounded.

The islands in the distance are long and narrow-blunt at the upstream end and rounded at the other. The River trims the sides and carves a channel in the River beside it. But at the downstream end, where the water is blocked by the island, it slows down. It drops its load of sand and silt and creates a little sand bar. When tough trees and shrubs take root this sand is stabilized. Little at a time this becomes an extension of the island.

The straight line in front of you is a water pipe. It once served the Old Dominion Steel Plant on Belle Isle. (Behind you are whatís left of some of the buildings and a fire hydrant. It still works and disperses water that has been waiting in the pipe for over ½ a century)>

The straight line in the distance on your left
James River image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, March 31, 2013
2. James River
is the top of a dam --- north wing of the Belle Isle Dam. It once directed water to a hydroelectric power plant (which is not there now) and to the Albemarle Paper Company (later the James River Paper Company) which are the boxy structures straight ahead. Look carefully along the shoreline and you can see the outfall gate for the water once used in making paper. These buildings are now the headquarters of Dominion Virginia Power Company.

The rocks you see are part of a band of granite that stretches 1000 miles from New Jersey to Georgia. Here in Richmond they are exposed for 7 miles. Where rivers run across it there are rapids. The last mile here has the biggest drop and thatís where the industries began. All other major cities in the mid-Atlantic are located along this pluton of granite Ö and I-95 runs along the top!

This is a rich habitat for wildlife
Underneath every rock there are aquatic insects. Mayfly and stone fly larva come out at night to lick off the dayís thin growth of single celled algae. (You know itís there even when you canít see it --- thatís what makes the rocks so slippery!) Fish feed on these at dawn and dusk when the movement begins and there is still enough light for the fish to see.

Behind every rock is a fish. Little ones eat the insects; big ones eat
Hollywood Rapids image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, March 31, 2013
3. Hollywood Rapids
Great Blue Heron on the James River below Hollywood Cemetery.
the little ones. When a fish is removed from one site, others come in to fill it --- a daily game of musical chairs. Because the habitat is stable and provides a constant supply of food, this is the richest concentration of life on the entire River.

Often out of sight are animals that eat fish. In springtime look for Great Blue Herons (long necks and legs) and Cormorants (black, fish-eating duck that holds its wings out to dry). In summer Osprey (look like a little bald eagle) circle and hover overhead. On occasion you can see otters and mink.
Sponsored by St. Catherineís Middle School - Earth Day 2012
Erected 2012 by James River Park System.
Location. 37° 31.879′ N, 77° 27.064′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Tredegar Street 0.3 miles west of South 5th Street. Touch for map. Located on Belle Isle which can be reached via a pedestrian bridge from the north bank of the river. Marker is at or near this postal address: 470 Tredegar Street, Richmond VA 23219, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Historic Belle Isle (a few steps from this marker); Belle Isle Prison Camp Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Civil War POW Camp (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Historic Belle Isle (within shouting distance of this marker); Old Dominion Iron & Steel Company (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Canons and Corpses (about 600 feet away); Cannon over the Camp (about 600 feet away); Native American Fishing (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
Categories. Natural Features
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 1, 2013, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 276 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on April 1, 2013, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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