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Lily pads on Potomac Creek

Top photo: Making Waves in Stafford County photo contest


Got a minute?

Let me tell you a secret. I know you’ve probably spent some time driving up and down Interstate 95 in Stafford County, but I bet you didn’t know that while you were motoring along this traffic-heavy corridor, you were only a couple of miles away from a completely different world.

Just east of Interstate 95 in Stafford County, VA, is a place where you can look out over wide, peaceful water at nature’s beauty, where osprey, herons and bald eagles fly and hunt majestically.

The Potomac River and its tributaries Aquia Creek and Potomac Creek can feel like a world away, but they’re still easily accessed from popular shopping and dining options in Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

Looking for a starting point for exploring this beautiful little corner of Virginia? Allow me to offer up a few ideas.

Hope Springs Marina


Aquia Paddlers at Hope Springs Marina

Hope Springs Marina has been a beloved launching point for boaters on the Potomac since its current ownership team took the reins in 1993. This summer, the marina launched Aquia Paddlers, which rents stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes and paddle-boats. The marina’s position, tucked in a cove on Aquia Creek just upstream of the railroad bridge, makes it a safe place for paddle-powered boats to explore upstream toward the Aquia Harbor subdivision and Government Island.  Check with the marina for information on any seasonal camps or tours.

Kayak on the Potomac

Photo: Making Waves in Stafford County photo contest

Vino Rows at Potomac Point Winery

Whenever I hear from someone who’s come back from a visit to Potomac Point, they always rave about the scenery at this winery. But now the folks at the winery want to help you explore some other great scenery in Stafford County. Vino Rows is a seasonal special event (last one of the season takes place Sept. 13, 2015) that combines Potomac Point wines with a kayak tour on the river. It is run in partnership with the Virginia Outdoor Center, another great destination for river-lovers. You’ll take a shuttle to the put-in, then enjoy a guided tour on the Potomac followed by a private wine-and-cheese social.  Gather a group and make a date for this!

Aquia Landing Park

Photo: Making Waves in Stafford County photo contest

Aquia Landing Park

Today, Aquia Landing Park is home to a beach, picnic areas and a great place to fish, swim, play or just sit and watch for wildlife. If you don’t have a boat, this is one of the best ways to get a good look at the Potomac in Stafford County. The history of this spot includes much more, though. In the 1800s, Aquia Landing was the end of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac railroad line, and travelers boarded steamboats here to go north to Washington, D.C. It was the scene of the first naval skirmish of the Civil War, and it was a true gateway to freedom for slaves escaping north in 1862.


Photo: Making Waves in Stafford County photo contest

Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve

This 2,800-acre nature preserve between Potomac and Accokeek creeks is a treasure trove for nature lovers. From tidal and non-tidal wetlands to nesting areas for bald eagles, it’s easy to see why the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation calls the public purchase of Crow’s Nest  in 2008 “arguably one of Virginia’s highest land preservation achievements.” Funds were approved in 2015 to build an access road that should make the preserve’s 12 miles of hiking trails and other features more accessible to the public. State transportation officials expect the road to open in 2016, so stay tuned. As of now, an ADA-accessible canoe and kayak launch is open off Brooke Road, fed by a half-mile hiking trail. The launch consists of a 360-foot pier and floating platform.

Want more ideas for exploring the outdoors in the Fredericksburg region? Check out our Outdoor Lovers itinerary.