Dutch Gap Conservation Area Guide

Encircled by an oxbow channel and nestled along the James River in Chesterfield County, the Dutch Gap Conservation Area protects important natural resources and wildlife while providing visitors a peaceful respite to observe and enjoy nature. There are over 800 acres of woodlands and wetlands to explore, where visitors may witness an elegant blue heron soaring into the marsh or beavers swimming in its waters.

Dutch Gap surrounds the historic Citie of Henricus, and its name comes from Sir Thomas Dale, who in 1611, attempted to shorten river travel around a meander of the James River by cutting a new channel through the river. 

Admission to the Dutch Gap Conservation Area is free and it’s open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. As it offers so much to see and do, check out this guide on the different ways to explore and enjoy the Dutch Gap Conservation Area:

Exploring the Trails

The Dutch Gap Conservation Area offers its visitors many trails to explore – and in many ways.

The Dutch Gap Conservation Area has 5.8-miles of walking trails, including the Dutch Gap Trail. Hikers, walkers, bikers, runners and horseback riders can all enjoy the Dutch Gap Trail, which starts next to the Henricus Visitor Center. The trail is a 4.5-mile loop and takes its explorers through tidal wetlands, meadows, forests and more. The trail’s visitors can expect to see a wide range of birds, from American goldfinches, sparrow hawks, great egrets, red-wing blackbirds to bald eagles.

For those looking to get off solid ground, the conservation area also features the Lagoon Water Trail, a 2.5-mile tidal lagoon water trail which can be explored by Kayak or Canoe. The trail features a “graveyard” of barges, wetlands, islands and a heron rookery. The water is flat and safe for beginners.

Kayak and Canoe Tours

If you don’t want to brave the water trails alone, private, individual or group kayak and canoe guided tours through the tidal lagoon can be booked through Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation. The tour lasts three hours (two hours of paddle time) and includes nature guides, boats, paddles and flotation devices. Participants must be at least seven years old.


The Dutch Gap Conservation Area is surrounded by water, allowing it to be a haven for fishers. Visitors can fish at any of the five docks located alongside the river trail. Fishers will find residential freshwater and migratory fish brought in by tidal waters. A fishing license is required to fish in Chesterfield County.

Bird Watching

The diverse habitat of the Dutch Gap Conservation Area allows for year-round birdwatching, where a variety of birds can be spotted. The Dutch Gap Conservation Area has two observation platforms along the road entrance and bird blinds in the conservation area for visitors to bird-watch from. Visitors have spotted Mallards, Northern Pintails, Great Blue Heron and American Coots, to name a few. Bring your binoculars and a birding journal and enjoy the tranquility of birdwatching at the Dutch Gap Conservation Area.