The intertwined history of the land and the water
The story of Dutch Gap demonstrates the importance of the river throughout history revealing a partnership of man's use of land and water. Today, the river's commercial and recreational activities continue, providing a backdrop to Dutch Gap's restoration, preservation and conservation efforts.
1500s Powhatan Indians fish and carry furs, food and other trade items in dugout canoes.
1611 Sir Thomas Dale and 300 settlers build the Citie of Henricus as Virginia's frontier moves westward.
1614 America's first English hospital, Mt Malady, is established. John Rolfe introduces tobacco, which launches Virginia's first successful economic venture.
1619 America's first college, The College of Henricus, is chartered.
1620s Early settlers use shallops to navigate shallow waters to nearby settlements and plantations.
1700s Colonists turn to batteaux, sloops and barges for water transportation.
1781 Benedict Arnold and British troops capture Virginia's navy along the southern tip of the Dutch Gap peninsula.
1800s Packets carry cargo from Richmond to Baltimore, New York and Boston.
1855 More than 2,600 boats and ships enter and depart from the Richmond docks.
1864 Gen. Benjamin Butler's Federal forces begin to dig a channel near the original 1611 Citie site to eliminate the large loop in the James that contains Confederate land batteries. Federal soldiers, under constant fire, labor 144 days on the channel.
1865 Channel project is abandoned when a bulkhead explosion blasts earth back into the newly dug causeway.
1871 U.S. Government completes dredging and opens the channel, turning the peninsula into an island with tidal and non-tidal marshlands.
1872 The steamship Sylvester is the first commercial vessel to use the new channel.
1930s Army Corp of Engineers extends the channel. This eliminates another loop in the river.
1930s-1960s Sand and gravel is mined, creating a tidal lagoon.
1997 Dutch Gap Conservation Area is created as a regional partnership providing historical, environmental and recreational activities to thousands of visitors each year.
Today Motorboats, jet skis and other recreational craft negotiate the narrow channels of the James with tugboats, barges and large ocean-going vessels hauling international cargo to and from the Port of Richmond.