Deep Bottom Park
Captain John Smith’s Adventures on the James
— www.johnsmithtrail.org —
Fourmile Creek flows into the slender oxbow of the James River here. Oxbows, successive curvatures in the river’s course, forced Smith and his men to row long distances on their exploratory trip upstream. Navigating the sharp turns was very difficult when sailing because some portion of every turn required sailing against the wind. The force of water scouring the land as the river changed direction dug deep, narrow channels that left ships vulnerable to attacks by land.
Marshes producing plants with edible tubers and seeds are often found in the vicinity of oxbows, like the breadbasket marsh along the mouth of Fourmile Creek. This marsh may have supplied arrow arum, spatterdock and wild rice for the Arrohateck Indians who lived nearby.
Capt. John Smith’s Trail
John Smith knew the James River by its Algonquian name: Powhatan, the same as the region’s paramount chief. Smith traveled the river many times between 1607 and 1609, trading with Virginia Indians to ensure survival at Jamestown. What he saw of Virginia’s verdant woodlands and pristine waters inspired him to explore the greater Chesapeake Bay, chronicling its natural wonders.
Deep Water Pockets
Deep Bottom was named for the many unusual, deep water pockets scattered in the James River here, one of which has a depth of 35 feet. Fourmile Creek’s flow helps form a rich river delta that supports sycamore, oak and pine trees. Birdlife abounds, with common species ranging from blue grosbeaks to bald eagles. The tiny, bright yellow prothonotary warbler also finds its home in tree cavities here.
During the Civil War, a pontoon bridge here linked Federal troops located north and south of the James River. Its steady use began in June 1864, and the Union’s Army of the James continued to use this key river crossing until the end of the war.