Richmond is the kind of city that you can live in for almost 20 years and still learn new things about.
A few weeks back while working on a route for an upcoming ride I stumbled across one of the many Civil War battlefield parks peppered around the greater metropolitan area. Along the south bank of the James River, just a bit south of the 895 bridge is Drewry’s Bluff. At the time I was unable to stop but made plans to return a few days later to take a look around.
That weekend I loaded up my daughter and drove back down to the park. Despite being adjacent to both highways and some rather large industrial and commercial areas the park itself was quiet. We parked in the shady lot and began to walk down the trail. I had plenty of time and no idea what to expect. The trail dips into the woods and downhill to a small creek crossing before ascending back up to the bluff. After a gentle bend, the trail opens into the ruins of Fort Darling.
To be honest, the initial view of the park took me back. Trees had returned to most of the fort and time had worn down the walls. The mature oak trees filtered the early fall sunlight and gave a sense of timeless peace that belied the violent history of the fort. Without knowing the actual history it would be difficult to at first know how ancient these ruins actually worked.
My calm was broken as Elsa took off running into the fort.
We spent the next hour wandering the around the fort grounds. At the southernmost edge along the river, one of the canons remained. Still pointing towards the river as it had when the one and only river bound assault on Richmond by the Union forces was dramatically repelled.
The view of the James is one of the best I have experienced. Unlike many of the more familiar views, this one benefits from being far above the river’s surface. We lingered and watched small boats move up and down the river and listened to birdsong. Elsa collected acorns while I read about the battle that happened here.
Eventually, we moved back towards the trail and slowly walked back through the forest to the parking lot. We heard a pileated woodpecker and saw frogs in the creek. We passed a lush meadow teeming with the din of grasshoppers and crickets.
Reluctantly, we climbed back into the car and went about the rest of our day’s business.
If you’re looking for a quiet place for a picnic or just somewhere to take a quiet walk to clear the head this park is a good one. Do yourself a favor and check it out.