Last week while the James River was still running at flood stage, I went down to the Pipeline Trail, just east of the Christopher Newport Cross near the Floodwall at 12th and Byrd St. (Parking is available in a small lot there.) The roosting Great Blue Herons were visible in their Dr. Seuss-like nests in the middle of the river and my friend, Mary, who has a bit of a fear of heights, braved the ladder down onto the actual pipeline that put us close to the action of the river and the wildlife and right under a working railroad track. What a great combo!

Herons come home to roost in Richmond.

I love that Richmond has places that are not Disney-fied and perfect and perfectly safe yet are still available to the public. Go at your own risk and try not to be too dumb, public! We managed to stay on the pipe–there are rails for much of it–but had to turn around where it was blocked off due to high water. We saw some fish fighting the current, but we weren’t  tempted to behave badly since the water was pushing hard. When a loaded coal train rumbled overhead, we were happy that somebody built that trestle to last. It’s often a great spot to watch expert kayakers ply their trade.

Not related to expert kayakers in the least, the first time I rafted the James, our guide wanted us to surf the Pipeline. In the roar of the river, we couldn’t really hear what she was telling us, but it seemed like she wanted my husband and a friend’s husband up in the front of the boat, so we shifted accordingly.  We surfed for approximately no time at all and the guide said, according to our husbands, “It takes two guys to surf the Pipeline.” Their chests puffed out accordingly, completely missing the facts that we a) hadn’t really surfed the Pipeline and b) the guide had actually said, “It takes two guides to surf the Pipeline.” and c) what she didn’t say but meant was “when the guys are as lame-o as these two.”

Part of the Pipeline Rapids

If you’d like a guide, there will be a Richmond Audubon-led tour of the Heron Rookery this Saturday, March 26th at 10 a.m. Park at the boaters’ 14th St. take-out parking lot, but remember that the 14th St. Bridge will be closed some on Saturday, so you’ll have to arrive from the north. Guys not necessary.

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