Tidal Occoquan to Pohick Bay Paddle Tour

This trip begins with a launch at Occoquan Regional Park, located near Lorton across from the Town of Occoquan, and continues downstream on the Occoquan River, around Mason Neck Peninsula in the Potomac River, before ending at Pohick Bay Regional Park. The entire route is roughly 16 miles, and because the trip includes open tidal water, the tour is best for paddlers with at least a moderate level of experience. The distance from Occoquan Regional Park to Mason Neck State Park (and another take out) is 5 river miles. In addition to a public boat launch area, Occoquan Regional Park includes restrooms, a seasonal snack bar, kayak and canoe rentals, playfields, interpretive exhibits and picnic tables, and serves as an anchor for the Fairfax Cross County Trail, the Laurel Hill Greenway, and the PHT.

En route to Mason Neck State Park, Conrad Island is one of the first features you’ll notice upon entering Belmont Bay. The island recently was created from dredged soils and is a favorite fishing spot for many birds, including cormorants, osprey and eagles. Kane’s Creek is a tidal inlet to the State Park, with the creek providing a view of a marsh ecosystem supporting resident and migrating waterfowl and raptors. The park offers outstanding bird watching, fishing and beachcombing, as well as hiking trails through marshes and forests and year-round launch access.

The river trip from Mason Neck State Park around Shady Point, High Point, Sycamore Point, and Hallowing Point is 11 miles. Adjacent to the Park, Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge is home to an active heron rookery and provides critical habitat for wildlife. Visible on your left, you are likely to bald eagles, osprey, blue heron, turkey vultures, butterflies, geese and seagulls. This Refuge also includes the Great Marsh – also visible from the water – a
285-acre freshwater marsh and the largest in northern Virginia. Please note that boating access is prohibited on the islands, as well as within the wildlife refuge. End your water trail journey at Pohick Bay Regional Park, which includes a year-round boat launch; rental kayaks, pedal boats, sailboats and canoes; a waterpark; a playground; a golf course; and tent camping, RV camping, and basic cabins.

To continue exploring on land, take advantage of the hiking and equestrian trails in the park and at Meadowood, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and visit nearby Gunston Hall, George Mason’s former home. For more information on activities and accommodations, visit the NVRPA web site or the Fairfax Tourism site.


Region: Northern Virginia
Activity: Birding, Hiking, Paddling, Wildlife

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
c/o Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
142 W. Potomac St.

Williamsport, MD 21795


This phone will reach the main line for the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

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