Werowocomoco Planning

Werowocomoco is an internationally significant cultural and archeological site on the York River, believed to have been a place of leadership and spiritual importance to American Indians as early as circa AD 1200. At Werowocomoco, Powhatan, the leader of many Algonquian tribes, lived and subsequently met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English.

In 2016, The Conservation Fund, a not-for profit 501(c)3 national conservation organization, purchased 264 acres of land in Gloucester County, Virginia, encompassing the historic site known as Werowocomoco. The Conservation Fund then sold the property to the National Park Service (NPS) to ensure its permanent protection.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail manages the property for the NPS. Werowocomoco was identified in the trail's 2010 comprehensive management plan and conservation strategy as a highly significant place along the trail.

Once a new site or park is protected it typically takes a number of years to develop the more detailed plans and financial resources to develop, manage and operate the site for public visitation. Werowocomoco is not yet open to public visitation and has no visitor facilities--no restrooms, no shelter, etc.

Resource protection and development decisions require sufficient advance research to guide the best treatment. We need to learn about the site before we can make those decisions. Researching and understanding the site are our first order of business, and that work is underway.

Planning for the Future of Werowocomoco

NPS initiated planning in January 2017 focusing on outreach and consultations with key partners and experts, including: seven Virginia Indian Tribes; the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Department of Historic Resources (DHR-SHPO); Gloucester County; the Werowocomoco Research Group (archeologists); and the Chesapeake Conservancy (the trail’s primary non-profit partner).

American Indian tribes in Virginia – the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock, and Upper Mattaponi – have a keen interest in this place of deep Native history. The National Park Service has been and will continue to consult with tribes throughout the planning effort.

We anticipate a feasibility assessment and plan being completed in 2018-19. In addition, an archeological assessment is scheduled for 2018.

Future management of Werowocomoco may lean towards a model of a partnership park. This may result in visitor contact/staging area(s) off of NPS land with shuttle transit to Werowocomoco for guided on-site tours, minimizing the need for on-site infrastructure while also minimizing disturbance of archeological resources and natural integrity of the landscape.

The current feasibility assessment and planning effort will inform what is practicable and define the path forward. However, visitation to the property is likely several years in the future.

To receive updates on the Werowocomoco planning work, check back to this page.

Last updated: September 8, 2017

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