Thursday, March 12, 2015

This River is Closed

Magnificent and terrifying, either way you look at it.

Today's walk took me to Belle Isle where I was greeted by a read sign reading, "River level above 9 feet. River closed to use."

Looking out at the roiling water as I walked around the island, it was crystal clear why the river was closed.

Massive trees floated down the middle of the river. All of the rocks that become sunbathing and party central during warm months were completely submerged. In several places, rocks further out had become loggerheads as hundreds of floating trees jammed up against them.

It was kind of eerie to walk along the northern side where normally a buffer of rocks separates you from the river. Today trees, many with their bare roots exposed, clung to the edges of the island as the only thing between me and the rushing water.

There were only two places where you could still access rocks and both were mere shadows of their usual size.

The usually spacious outcropping at Rocks at First Break was reduced to a fraction of its typical width and breadth but since it was one of two I could even still see, I wasted no time scrambling down the hill and out onto it.

So. Noisy.

With water levels this high, there was a surround-sound effect from all that rushing water.

But there was also a beautiful cool, salty air smell that followed me as I walked along the riverside and that was the most wonderful part of all, that bracing smell.

No surprise, the island was full of joggers, walkers and people sitting down for a view of the tumultuous James on a sunny day. One couple sat by the serene quarry pond smooching as I walked by.

New to Belle Isle since the last time I'd been there was a memorial bike rack that resembled a giant metal teepee.

The sign informed me that it was a tribute to the Sibley tents used to shelter prisoners on the island during the Civil War. At 12' high and 18' wide, I shudder to think how many prisoners they crammed into one. Or how miserable it must have been once the tents began deteriorating, which the sign said they did over the course of the war.

Crafted by VCU students, the bike rack is meant to be functional and also a reminder of our past. It'll be interesting to see it covered in bikes locked all over it.

Maybe not as interesting as seeing a closed river, but something to look forward to when the James is at a less terrifying stage.

You can be sure I'll be back when the river is open again.

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