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Wander the Waters at Virginia State Parks

With 42 Virginia State Parks, the water adventure opportunities are endless. Whether you prefer to take an easy float and reel in some fish, dive into coastal waters, or have a serene camping experience by the shores, these parks beckon you to return time and again for more aquatic excitement.

Ride down a River

Boasting 8 miles of hiking trails, riverfront access, and historical remnants of an 18th-century French settlement, Clinch River State Park is an outdoor haven. Once completed, the park will be Virginia’s first blueway state park, featuring multiple canoe/kayak access points across a 100-mile stretch of the Clinch River. These properties, dubbed a “string of pearls,” will celebrate the river’s natural beauty and cultural significance, inviting visitors to explore and learn. There is a public boat launch available for boat access to the Clinch River at Artrip in Russell County. 

James River State Park is a prime destination for kayak fishing enthusiasts, offering opportunities to catch smallmouth bass, catfish, panfish, and the occasional river gar. Boaters can utilize the car-top launch at the canoe landing area or the boat launch at Dixon Landing for easy access to the water.

If you are new to kayak fishing, or are looking for a leisurely float, New River Trail State Park is the place to be. With boat and tube rentals at the Foster Falls Boat and Bike Livery, and boat ramps at Allisonia, Foster Falls, and Austinville, even the novice angler or boater will feel comfortable here.

A Seaside Swim

Head to the Virginia coast to continue your water adventures. At Kiptopeke State Park, there are two unguarded beaches on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where swimmers venture at their own discretion. Kiptopeke’s expansive northern swim beach spans nearly half a mile, welcoming visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pets, fishing, jet skis, canoes, and kayaks are prohibited. Meanwhile, the south beach permits swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and leashed pets, offering a diverse array of coastal activities for visitors to enjoy.

Taskinas Creek, in York River State Park offers rentable Canoes and kayaks to catch catfish and white perch. Guided canoe and kayak excursions, commencing at the visitor center, offer insights into estuarine marsh ecology along Taskinas Creek or the natural and cultural history of the York River.

Get a glimpse of history at First Landing State Park, where vessels can be launched from the Narrows in the southern area. This site marks the landing spot of English colonists in 1607, and over the centuries, Native American canoes, Colonial settlers, 20th-century schooners, and modern cargo ships have traversed its waterways. Facilities include launching ramps, parking, and restrooms, but swimming at the Narrows is discouraged due to strong currents.

Paddle-In Sites

Available year-round, Virginia State Parks paddle-in sites offer paddlers of all levels the experience of primitive camping on the water. Belle Isle State Park is an excellent option for beginners because of its full-service campground, the ability to rent a canoe and put in near the visitor center before paddling 2.5 miles to primitive sites at Brewer’s Point. 

At Caledon State Park, the paddle-in campground is part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail on the Potomac River, and offers a relaxing escape. Returning to the New River Trail State Park, Double Shoals Campground is home to two primitive sites near the Town of Fries, and are first come, first served. As part of New River Canoe Trail, the park also has two other primitive campgrounds.

Be sure to track your paddle excursions through Wandering Waters Paddle Quest. With 31 out of 42 State Parks participating, it is easy to win commemorative items such as stickers, patches, and bags!

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