Richmond has several bridges connecting the north and south banks of the James River. One of the connecting bridges is a local favorite connecting the neighborhood of Westover Hills to the Maymont and Byrd Park area of Richmond. It is the Boulevard Bridge, known more commonly as the “Nickel Bridge.”
The bridge opened in 1925 and was named for the Boulevard, the main artery running north-south. A toll booth in the middle charged five cents, but the trip was free for residents of Westover Hills. This was an effort to encourage people to move to the new neighborhood with free access to downtown. While the current rate is thirty-five cents per crossing, the name Nickel Bridge has stuck for many native Richmonders.
The river is easy to access from the Southside through the park system. Trail biking is very popular along the river, especially on the Buttermilk Trail. With the pedestrian extension, cyclists have access to these trails from downtown Richmond. There are several popular river spots upriver of Belle Isle that the area around the Nickel Bridge provides access to, including the pillars of the iconic Atlantic Coastline Railway Bridge across the James River. The area is also very popular with dog owners. The Belle Isle area becomes crowded during the summer because it is like a public swimming pool.
The most beautiful times to be on the Boulevard Bridge are sunrise and sunset. The colors cascade off of the river, the water mirrors the sky, and there are rocks scattered among the waters which create a kaleidoscope effect. Childhood memories of days on the water fill my head. The bridge is a work of art over the water which frames it.