Looking for a great place to hike, explore history and spend some time with the family, including the furry, four-legged variety? Stafford County’s Government Island, a 17-acre park, nature preserve and historic and archaeological site is sure to interest the entire family.
The scenic heritage trail includes signs to educate visitors about the island’s history, spanning from Native American through the early 19th century. It’s earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
A boardwalk helps visitors explore the nature trail through wetlands and woods. Visitors can roam the area that is home to an abundance of aquatic and native plants, birds and wildlife. Hikers will find the one-and-a-half-mile trail easy to navigate, with interpretive signs that tell the story of its rich history and the first two trail segments handicap accessible.
The 18th and 19th-century quarry site housed the Aquia sandstone used for the construction of the U.S. Capitol and the White House, as well as other historic buildings in Washington, D.C.
Government Island’s history is as rich as the nature that abounds. The Westinghouse Corporation owned Aquia Harbour and Government Island in 1979. After it was purchased by Stafford County in 1998, a committee chaired by former White House Curator Rex Scouten created a plan for opening a public park with signage. Once the park was open, visitors would be able to view where the stone was quarried which was so important in the construction of buildings in Colonial America and in the Nation’s Capital.
Government Island is an easy drive off I-95 at Exit 40 and is located at 191 Coal Landing Road in Stafford. Parking is available on the premises, and entrance to the park is free. Dogs are allowed, but they must be on a leash. For more information, visit staffordparks.com or call 540-658-4864.