James River State Park Campground

James River State Park is located along the, shocker, James River, in Gladstone, VA  (30 miles outside of Lynchburg). This is a great park with good tubing/canoeing, fishing, and camping opportunities. There are multiple campgrounds and on my Memorial Day trip it was completely full.

The first thing you need to do is to decide what kind of camping you are looking for. They have sites with electric & water which are set up well for RVs (but I love camping at these too in my tent) and they also have more "backwoods" camping types.

Amenity Camping

The main campground at James River State Park is the Red Oak Campground. This is your run of the mill water & electric amenity campground. The campsites allow you to drive your car right up to the tent area. Each site has a picnic table, bear pole, fire ring w/ grill, and softish rocks in a tent box to place your tent on.

The bathrooms were clean, the showers were private and pretty clean and they $5 per cord firewood available at all hours of the day. If you camp at the front there is a long-ish walk to the bathrooms so you may want to get a spot closer to the center. Compared to other VA State Parks we felt that the sites were spaced out pretty well.

At the back of the campsites is access to the river trail where you can walk to the livery or to the canoe landing zone, both places where you can enjoy the river.

Primitive Camping

The park has 2 different primitive camping areas. The cool one is the Canoe Landing campground located by the livery. There are 13 sites here on a long strip of grass next to the river. A few sites you can walk down into the water. This is where you'd put in your tubes or your canoe (and can rent right there) so its a great spot.

These sites have no electricity or water. You have to park up a small hill fairly close to the site which is annoying if you make several trips to and from the car. Right across the river there are horses and a train so there are different noises throughout the day and night. Oh, and in order to shower you have to drive over to the regular campground which is annoying as well. There is a bathroom nearby but not super close.

Being able to fish and swim (sort of) right from the campsite was really great. The other sites you have to walk or drive to ponds or the river. These are my favorite campsites of all 10 VA State Parks I've been to. I highly recommend you get one of these sites.

There are also primitive sites at the Branch Pond campground which are in the woods, not a grass field and are by a cool fishing pond. These are probably fun too, but not as cool as being by the river.

Other Activities

Swimming: My favorite thing to do at this, or any park, is to go swimming. While there is no swimming area or beach there are a few places you can walk into the river and go for a dip. The best spot is right at what is called Dixon Landing, a short drive at the end of the park. There is a picnic table here and you can go into the water which was a good 4 feet deep which was perfect. (This is also where the tubing and canoe trips end - see above photo).

Tubing: You can also go Tubing and rent a tube (and get a ride back) which is sort of fun, but the river at times is not very deep. Last time I went it was more of a struggle than a relaxing float down the river. You can rent canoes and kayaks as well.

Hiking: The park also has walking trails and if you are there a few days they are worth hiking. Specifically hiking up to the Tye River Overlook leads to some good pictures. The River Trail is a nice shaded trail and it gets you to the main spots on the river.

Fishing: There are 2 different fishing ponds as well which are not just fun for fishing but fun to walk to and hang out by.

Cabins: I always go with tent camping so we rarely talk about cabins. However they are offered.

Music: I would recommend going when there is a bluegrass show at the park. This may just be once a summer but that was some of the most fun I ever had. You can walk over to the concert from your campsite and enjoy some music under the stars.

Outside The Park: Lynchburg is about 30 minutes away and has restaurants and activities. Last time I checked out a Minor League baseball game. Appomattox Courthouse is also a 30 minute drive away although I've never been. Breweries within a half hour include Blue Mountain Barrel House, Loose Shoe, and James River.

Overall James River State Park Campground is one of my favorite places to camp. Both the primitive and regular campsites are nice in their own ways. There are plenty of activities to do for a day or 2 on site.

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