The James River is a river in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is 348 miles (560 km) long, extending to 444 miles (715 km) if one includes the Jackson River, the longer of its two source tributaries. The James River drains a catchment comprising 10,432 square miles (27,020 km2). The watershed includes about 4% open water and an area with a population of 2.5 million people (2000). It is the 12th longest river in the United States that remains entirely within a single state.
The James River forms in the Appalachian Mountains, near Iron Gate on the border between Alleghany and Botetourt counties, from the confluence of the Cowpasture and Jackson rivers, and flows into the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads.
River join the James River to form the harbor area known as Hampton Roads. Between the tip of the Virginia Peninsula near Old Point Comfort and the Willoughby Spit area of Norfolk in South Hampton Roads, a channel leads from Hampton Roads into the southern portion of the Chesapeake Bay and out to the Atlantic Ocean a few miles further east. Many boats pass through this river to import and export Virginia products.
The James River contains numerous parks and other recreational attractions. Canoeing, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and swimming are some of the activities that people enjoy along the river during the summer. From the river's start in the Blue Ridge mountains to Richmond, numerous rapids and pools offer fishing and whitewater rafting.
The most intense whitewater stretch is a 2-mile (3 km) segment that ends in downtown Richmond where the river goes over the fall line.This is the only place in the country where extensive class III (class IV with above average river levels) whitewater conditions exist within sight of skyscrapers.
The urban river parks provide a great outdoor recreation/adventure opportunity for all the people of Richmond and the surrounding communities.Below the fall line east of Richmond, the river is better suited for water skiing and other large boat recreation. Here the river is known for its blue catfish, reaching average sizes of 20 to 30 pounds (9.1 to 14 kg), with frequent catches exceeding 50 pounds (23 kg).