Virginia's Rivers

1. Introduction
2. Chesapeake Bay
3. Systems
Physiography Topics
• Introduction to Physiography
• Coastal Plain
• Piedmont
• Mesozoic Basins
• Blue Ridge
• Valley and Ridge
• Appalachian Plateaus
• Virginia's Rivers

Virginia's Rivers (Part 4)

James River

• The James River's watershed is entirely contained within Virginia and spans the complete width of the state in central Virginia. Its headwaters are in the Valley and Ridge, and it passes through the Blue Ridge, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain until it reaches the Chesapeake Bay.

• Its watershed is the largest of all the drainage basins within Virginia.

• Major tributaries include the Appomattox, the Rivana, and the Maury Rivers. Important cities within the James River basin include: Richmond (James at the Fall Line), Peterburg (Appomattox at the Fall Line), Lynchburg (James), Charlottesville (Rivana), Farmville (Appomattox), Clifton Forge (James) and Covington (James).

• Its headwaters begin in the Valley and Ridge near the West Virginia border where its furthest tributaries drain off the side of the Allegheny Front which marks the boundary with the Appalachian Plateau.

The upper tributaries of the James River where Interstate-64 crosses the West Virginia-Virginia state line west of Covington. The state line follows the drainage divide. Streams that flow east of the state line flow into the James. Streams that flow west of the divide flow into the Greenbriar River system which is a tributary of the New River. (Map data by Google)

• The James River crosses the Valley and Ridge-Blue Ridge boundary at Glasgow. Here, it joins the Maury River before going through a water gap through the hard Cambrian quartzite of the Blue Ridge.

The James River crosses the Blue Ridge at Glasgow where it is joined by the Maury River. West of Glasgow, karst features such as Natural Bridge are typical of the Valley and Ridge. As the James river passes east of Glasgow, it goes through a narrow water gap through tough resistant quartzite typical of the Blue Ridge. The confluence of the James and Maury is at the Valley and Ridge-Blue Ridge province boundary. (Map data by Google)

• The James River crosses the Fall Line at Richmond. Its connection of Lynchburg - Richmond - Newport News makes the James River corridor an important east-west transportation route for rail, highway, and, in the past, river traffic over much of its length.

The James River, as it passes through Richmond, a Fall Line city. Here, the river crosses from the Piedmont into the Coastal Plain. (Photograph by Parvinder Sethi)