In my last post, I suggested you “Go South” to Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp if the temperature in the mountains was so cold that it was keeping you from venturing outdoors. If that is still the case, this time around I say, “Go East.” Specifically, go east to Virginia’s Northern Neck where the Tidewater area’s gentle terrain and milder weather provide easy late winter/early spring walking.

Belle Isle State Park is bordered by water on three sides and was purchased with money from the 1992 Parks and Recreational Facilities Bond. Making use of innovative conservation practices to reduce pollution run off into the Chesapeake Bay, the state maintains much of the park as cultivated fields.

The park’s trail system begins by overlooking the broad Rappahannock River, over three miles wide at this point. It’s a great place to be in early morning as the sun spreads its glow across the water. From here, the pathways wind past level fields, along hedgerows, and out to the confluence of Mulberry Creek and the Rappahannock River.

During one of my trips, ripples in the water marked a gliding snake shore, while another time I watched a muskrat swim to its home in the bank. I often stop at an enclosed blind overlooking a small backwater area to increase chances of observing great blue herons, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl.

The state park and its five miles of trails are west of Lively. 50 Hikes in Northern Virginia provides trail directions and some human and natural history of the area.