Belle Isle – The Peaceful Center of Richmond
It isn’t often that once can find the peace and quiet of the outdoors in the middle of a bustling city. Like so many other wonders that can be found within the boundaries of the City of Richmond, Belle Isle provides a welcome change of pace from what one might expect to be nestled in the center of an ever-growing metropolis. This island, located in the middle of the James River in the heart of the city, offers its own surprises and opportunities for enjoyment and discovery.
Like the surrounding city, Belle Isle finds its roots steeped in Civil War history. The island served as the site of a prison camp for Union soldiers during the war, many of which were capture soldiers from the 2nd Tennessee Infantry, taken during the Battle of Rogersville in November of 1863. The Battle of Walkerton (which took place March 2, 1864) proved to be a failed attempt to rescue the starving men. Even today, remains of the buildings used in the prison camp can be found scattered across the island. Ruins of an armory and an iron factory still stand against the elements as a testament to the harsh history of the place.
The tragic history seems a distant memory, however, when one traverses the paths and trails of the island. Modern amenities such as picnic shelters, rest areas, learning centers and even a tricky rope bridge provide visitors with the opportunity to enjoy the surrounding nature comfortably and safely. So when one sits at the top of the quiet island, overlooking the James River or Hollywood Cemetery, it is easy to forget that over the other shoulder sits an entire city full of people. Until they trip over you with their dogs and their beer coolers, that is…
photos borrowed from Watermarked Photography’s Flickr Page