James River, the largest stream which has its whole course in the state of Virginia. It is formed near the W. border of the state, on the border of Alleghany and Botetourt cos., by the union of Jackson and Cowpasture rivers, and thence flows S. E. and E. to the Blue Ridge, at the foot of which it receives Calfpasture river on the left. Breaking through the Blue Ridge about 15 m. N. E. of the Peaks of Otter, it resumes its S. E. course to Lynchburg, near which town it bends sharply to the N. E. On reaching the boundary between Albemarle and Buckingham cos., it takes an E. S. E. direction, which it retains with little variation until it reaches Richmond, where it turns nearly S. It is here obstructed by rapids, and embraces a number of small islands. Near the S. E. extremity of Henrico co. it again takes a S. E. course, after some tortuous deviations, and finally flows into the S. part of Chesapeake bay, through a broad estuary, at the mouth of which are Hampton roads. Willoughby point and Old Point Comfort are on either side of its embouchure. The river is 450 m. long, and navigable by vessels of 130 tons to Richmond, at the head of tide water, 150 m. from the sea, whence the James River and Kanawha canal, completed to Buchanan in Botetourt co., passes along its upper course.
The principal tributaries of James river are the Appomattox on the right and the Chickahominy on the left. The most important towns on its banks are Richmond and Lynchburg.