Belle Island is one of the local hot spots in Richmond. In the summertime, the rocks on the North side of the island are strewn with people sunbathing, hanging out, playing guitar, drinking some beer (even if it is frowned upon by the police), and rafting in the water.
The rapids on the James River near Belle Island vary from Class I/II to the Class IV Hollywood Rapids that run near the same area where you can clearly see the South side of Hollywood Cemetery. And now, for a bit of island history: Belle Isle was used as a Civil War prison camp for Union soldiers. There are many abandoned buildings on the island that served as storage sheds, or even holding cells. There is also a small burial ground on the North side of the island.
Not only can you see Hollywood Cemetery from the North side of the island, you can see the Tredegar Iron Works and the Richmond City Skyline. Via the 5th Street entrance, you can park in the dirt lot under the train tracks and walk across the footbridge. You can also bike over and take advantage of the off-road trails that are through the center of the island.
No matter what your interests are – if you’re a Civil War buff or just an outdoors type of person – Belle Isle has a lot to offer! Take a guided tour, bring your dog, bring your friends, bring a camera! You never know what fun you’ll get into down here.