If there's one thing common to urban development in North America, it's the critical role rivers have played in settling the landscape. Most major U.S. cities are built on a body of water of one form or another, but few have embraced the natural assets of their riverfront like Richmond, Virginia.

According to former world champion slalom boater Jon Lugbill, the James River has always been front and center in Richmond. "It's why Richmond is here," says Lugbill. "The Native Americans and the early settlers would come here because this is where the tidal water meets a free-flowing river…Today, the city of Richmond [was built] right on the fall line, with Class III rapids less than half a mile from the Capitol building."

This Friday and Saturday, Lugbill is helping to stage the Dominion Riverrock—a two-day event that's all about celebrating the recreational potential of the James River and its 500-acre riverside park. He expects upwards of 10,000 spectators to attend each day, and big-name kayakers Andrew Holcombe, Rob Tompkins and Tao Berman to show on the water. Besides a crowd-favorite boatercross event, organizers have added a Red Bull-sponsored big air ramp competition, scheduled for Saturday evening.

Lugbill says the 30-foot-high, 45-degree ramp will launch boaters 25 feet over the water. "It will be quite spectacular," he says. Organizers chose the head-to-head excitement of boatercross over traditional downriver races like slalom to better engage the audience. "We have a good rapid immediately adjacent to the main venue that will allow spectators to see it up close and personal," explains Lugbill. "It has a really nasty hole that we are going to use, and will be a lot of fun for people to check out."

Riverrock proceeds support efforts to enhance recreation, water quality and river park improvements like put-ins and take-outs for paddlers. "There is a ton of excitement in the local community for this event," says Lugbill. "Richmonders are very proud of our riverfront and Dominion Riverrock gives us a chance to celebrate this awesome resource in the middle of our downtown." –Conor Mihell