The James River in the State of Virginia is 340 miles (550 km) long and drains a watershed encompasing 10,000 sq.mi. (26,000 km²}, home to 2.5 million people (2000). The James is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The James forms in the Allegheny Mountains near Iron Gate, Virginia from the confluence of the Cowpasture and Jackson Rivers.
The earliest permanent English settlement of the Americas was in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia along the banks of the James. Richmond, the capital of Virginia is at the fall line of the James. Navigation of the James played an important role in early Virginia commerce and the settlement of the interior. Produce from the Piedmont and Great Valley regions traveled down the river to seaports at Richmond through such port towns as Lynchburg, Scottsville, Columbia and Buchanan. The James was considered as a route for transport of produce from the Ohio Valley, and the James River and Kanawha Canal Company was formed for this purpose.