Belle Isle is situated along the James River in historic Richmond, Virginia and was incorporated into the James River Park System in 1972. The island is home to several different historical buildings and location and is widely known for being a Civil War Prisoner of War Camp and Cemetery. The Confederate Government established a military prison on the island during the war years, and the horrible conditions of the camp were widely reported making the island famous. Around 30,000 men were kept on the island during the war years, and their remains were originally buried on the island, and removed later after the war.

Originally known as Broad Rock Island, it was first explored by Captain John Smith in 1607. In the 18th century the island was occupied by a fishery and in 1814, the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Company completed a nail factory. During the 1860s, the island was inhabited by a village complete with a school, church, and general store, but was most famously known for its use during the Civil War. In the 20th century the Virginia Electric Power Company built and operated a hydroelectric power plant on the island between 1904 and 1963 and the original Lee Bridge was built over the island in 1934, but replaced by the current version in 1988.In the 2001 movie Hannibal, the power plant can be seen as Agent Starling runs across the bridge on the south side of the island. Today, part of the island is known for connecting to the East Coast Greenway.