George Washington’s Vision

George Washington promoted the concept of a great central waterway long before he became the nation’s first president. A surveyor of western lands as a young man and later a landowner of vast tracts beyond the Allegheny Mountains, Washington had close knowledge of the western territories, which he feared France and Spain would control if trade routes to eastern markets were not established.

In the early 19th century, other farsighted Virginians took over Washington’s leadership role. The final elements of his plan were completed in the 1820s, when the Kanawha Turnpike joined the headwaters of the James River to the Kanawha River. In 1835, the James River and Kanawha Co. was formed, and within 15 years, a canal system stretched 197 miles to Buchanan.

  • An exhibit illustrating George Washington’s vision and the construction of canals along the James River stands at the Turning Basin Plaza between Virginia and 14th streets.
  • A set of elegant bronze reliefs recognizes Washington’s early vision of the country’s westward expansion and the importance of uniting the new territories with the eastern states.
  • Integrated with seating, the reliefs provide a bronze and granite surround for a bronze replica of a period surveyor’s transit mounted on granite in the center of the exhibit.
  • The marker is at the intersection of South 14th Street and Dock Street.


Along the Riverfront Canal Walk, a public park open from dawn to dusk