James River State Park (Virginia): 5 Insider Tips For Rock Hunting

James River State Park is a beautiful State Park in Virginia on the river that has an abundance of trails that parallel waterways, a helpful staff and very accessible trails and terrain. 

James River State Park is located in Buckingham County, one of the best locations in Virginia for rock hunting. 

There are many opportunities for rock collecting as the park is on the James River, a large fast moving river. 

In this article we will share the best insider tips to make your trip a success.  

James River State Park Things To Do (and Tips)

1. Trails Are Short And Easy

The trails at James River State Park are not difficult hikes, young and old can enjoy these trails that often cross over paved park roads. 

The trails show a lot of evidence of water runoff, and they can be closed regularly. Check the park website for regular updates on closures. 

The River Trail which begins at Dixon Landing and boat ramp is incredibly flat and leads to a picnic area with access to the river.

At the edge of the picnic area there are stairs that lead down to the river and you can access the river there and enjoy a quiet lunch after rock hunting. 

The river loop trail is a very accessible, paved trail that shares information about the park and is a great first trail to get your bearings in the park. It is very close to the visitor’s center and the parking lot. 

Stop here when you arrive. 

James River State Park Trails
River Loop Trail offers a great introduction to the park.

2. Visit the Visitor Center

The visitor center at James River State Park has a beautiful display of local animals, rocks and fish. 

There are water refill stations, snacks and a bathroom for visitors of the park. 

The visitors center celebrates the local geography, wildlife and history. The employees are very helpful and there is information about surrounding areas available at the visitor’s center. 

The display is museum quality and the grounds around the visitor’s center are beautiful.

It is right up the hill from the river and it has a beautiful covered porch for resting or enjoying a packed lunch.  

James River State Park
The visitor’s center displays at James River State Park are museum quality and very engaging.

3. Walk Along the River

When you are at James River State Park the river is very accessible. River beds and shores are a great place to find rocks that have been washed down stream and settled on the riverbed. 

In Virginia you can expect to find quartz and amethyst specimens around the river.

Virginia has a long history of mining and the varied geological environments that make up the state make it a great place to find a variety of rocks. 

The rocks along the James River are often washed down from the Appalachian Mountains where shale, granite, sandstone and even limestone are common sights. 

The Appalachian Mountains hold unique treasures, there is a list of common rocks you may find in the linked article. 

4. Be Ready To Get Wet 

The shores of the river in the park are very steep and covered in slippery clay.

If you find your way down to the river and you are looking to get away from the many boat and kayak entry points you will need water shoes. 

There are areas where you can wade in the river, but be sure to check with the visitor center about current river conditions. 

Days when the river is running high it can be very dangerous to wade in as there may be underwater currents. 

The clay can make it difficult to identify rocks buried in the thick sticky red clay, so you may need to wash them when you return to your campsite. 

5. Plan Trips

James River State Park is a great home base for rockhounding in central Virginia. Buckingham county is smack in the middle of the state. 

Just a short trip from the park you can find Kyanite at the Willis Mountain Mine. A very accessible mine where there is kyanite and quartz in abundance. 

Plan to visit the Gold Mining Camp Museum that is located central to 19 mines within 5 miles. 

The Gold Mining Camp Museum offers sales of gems, fossils and rocks, information about the history of mining in the area and expert advice for other trips in the area. 

The hours are limited, but there is gold panning and gem panning sluice available during some hours, so be sure to check the website and call ahead to schedule your visit. 

Visiting James River State Park

James River State Park is located in the middle of Virginia and it is a great home base for exploring the rich mining history of the state. 

The park offers tent camping, RV hookups, cabins and cabins for larger groups or conferences. As with many State Parks the cabins fill up quickly, so book early and stay for a few days. 

James River State Park is a good place to look for quartz and amethyst and the surrounding mines offer the possibility to pan for gold, see local fossils and learn about the history of mining in Virginia. 

Plan to use your trip to James River State Park as a chance to explore several mines in Virginia as there are 2 in Buckingham county and 19 within a few miles of the park. 

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