Although the Rappahannock area has industrialized rapidly over the last thirty years, it still possesses ample green space and natural beauty, and there is no better place to see this than in our local parks. Many of these parks were only recently created, some within the last ten years. This guide provides a list of several of our newer and more popular parks and includes descriptions of the trails and natural beauty they have to offer.
One park you may enjoy visiting, both for hiking and for its historical importance, is Government Island in Stafford. This is a very recent park, having only been opened to the public in 2010, but its land has a history going back to the dawn of our nation. Government Island is the location of the old Public Quarry that the American colonists used to collect sandstone for buildings and tombstones, dating all the way back to 1694. Walking its paths today, you will still see marks of its older purpose, as massive slabs of hewn stone sit overgrown with trees and grass, and foundations of houses and storage sheds of people that once lived there are reclaimed by flowers and animals. You may see herons and ducks in the nearby river or rockfish and gar in the streams under the bridges. After a relaxing walk through the trails of Government Island, you may ponder the events of our nation’s past or the mysteries of its future.
The county of Westmoreland is part of CRRL’s service area, and it is home to Westmoreland State Park, an impressive park located along the banks of the Potomac River. It offers stunning views of the Potomac and plentiful opportunities to photograph water birds such as herons, ospreys, and kingfishers. Westmoreland State Park is also the location of Fossil Beach, a place noted for the fossils of a wide variety of ancient sea creatures, including the formidable megalodon. If you’re lucky, you might uncover something there. You can also fish on the breakwaters or rent a boat and explore the river. Enjoy the beauty of CRRL’s most rural county by visiting Westmoreland State Park.
Another local park recently opened in our area is Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve in Stafford. Crow’s Nest is a large expanse (roughly 3,800 acres) that is completely undeveloped and preserved as a pristine wilderness near the southern border of Stafford. A heavily forested area with many old-growth hardwood trees, Crow’s Nest is one of the last preserved forested places along the East Coast. It serves as an important refuge for migratory songbirds, a nesting area for bald eagles, and habitat for the endangered shortnose sturgeon. Crow’s Nest may also be the top habitat for the great blue heron on the East Coast. Hiking trails and in-season hunting of waterfowl have become available in this area. There has also recently been a boat launch installed, so you may bring a kayak and explore the creek or take photographs of the beautiful environment to be found in Crow’s Nest.
Spotsylvania’s Arritt Park is considerably smaller at 26.5 acres but no less pleasant to visit than the larger parks in other counties. Dedicated in 1999, Arritt Park features a popular baseball field in addition to rich natural habitats, including a large pond and a swamp containing numerous turtles, frogs, and beavers. In front of the main parking area, you will find a dedicated picnic shelter. There are numerous songbirds along the trail through Arritt Park, which is part of the extensive Green Springs trails loop, which goes through several parks and wilderness areas. You can choose to visit Arritt Park alone or visit it as part of your exploration of many of the sites on the Green Springs loop, which also includes Lake Anna State Park.
One of the most popular parks in the Fredericksburg is Old Mill Park. Located along the Rappahannock River, Old Mill Park is part of the Rappahannock River Heritage Trail that allows for the exploration of many scenic sites in Fredericksburg. Along its path, you can find the ruins of the now-abandoned mills that gave the area its name and some of which operated up until the early 20th century. This park includes picnic tables and allows for fishing in the Rappahannock River. It also features a relatively large playground for younger visitors. Please note that although swimming in the Rappahannock River is allowed, it is discouraged without proper floatation devices and supervision. Old Mill Park also serves as the site of the Fourth of July fireworks display for the City of Fredericksburg, making it a popular holiday destination as well.
One more park you may enjoy if you like scenic trails and nature is Curtis Park in southwestern Stafford. Curtis Park features the Gauntlet Golf Course and a horseshoe range in addition to its beautiful nature trails and lake. There is also an outdoor swimming pool. On the trails through Curtis Park, you may find woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and Eastern bluebirds. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may also find butterflies and large fish such as largemouth bass and bluegill in Curtis Lake. It includes Curtis Memorial Loop, so if you enjoy hiking, be sure to visit Curtis Memorial Park.
These are some of the most popular local parks in the Rappahannock region. CRRL provides an online guide to some of our local national parks in addition to these. We also have a write-up of Alum Spring Park, one of the most popular public recreational areas in Fredericksburg with an intriguing history. Our article Take a Hike! provides a list of area hiking trails, as well as books on hiking in the library’s collection.
For more information on each locality's parks, you can check their webpages, linked on the library's Regional Answers page. You’re sure to find some great local parks and trails nearby!