WRITTEN BY KELLY CHASE
NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY BY KELLY CHASE
STAFFORD, VIRGINIA: Spring has finally sprung, and with the welcome and imminent promise of warmer weather and longer days, most of us start thinking about outdoor activities again. For me, that usually includes hiking various nature trails that I’ve discovered, many practically in my own backyard! Today I want to especially focus on one of Stafford County’s best-kept secrets… Government Island!
Photo Courtesy via Stafford County Website
Government Island has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit when I need to dust off the cobwebs of the winter doldrums and recover from the effects of wintering indoors and the resulting cabin fever.
WHAT IS GOVERNMENT ISLAND?
Government Island in Stafford County just off US Route 1, provides all the amazing splendor of Mother Nature without having to travel far! A relatively small park, Government Island is about 17 acres with just over 1.5 miles of looping hiking trails. Government Island is a local gem with abundant waterfowl and wildlife, as well as a rich assortment of aquatic and native plants.
Not only that, if you’re passionate about local and national history, you’ll discover that Government Island is a registered historical landmark. The public quarry located on-site has supplied much of the sandstone that was used to build many of our nation’s earliest government buildings in Washington D.C, including The White House! The close to 40-foot walls of the quarry still clearly bear the chisel and pick marks left by those who quarried the stone. Interesting facts like these make Government Island an excellent field trip destination with many informational kiosks offering a wealth of knowledge concerning the island’s past.
WHAT KIND OF ACTIVITIES ARE AVAILABLE AT GOVERNMENT ISLAND?
Perhaps one of the most popular activities to do at Government Island is fishing! Government Island is suitable for all types of fishing, whether for the weekend angler or the serious sportsmen. The calm and meandering waters of Austin Run and Aquia Creek, tributaries of the tidal segment of the Potomac River that pass through and around Government Island, offer many great spots to cast your line. The waters around Government Island are home to a wide assortment of native fishes, including Largemouth Bass, White Crappie, and juvenile Striped Bass. It’s also a great spot to catch the Northern Snakehead! One of the most surprising discoveries was learning that the prehistoric Garfish can also be found swimming the waters of Government Island!
(Please remember to adhere to all State and County licensure laws and regulations when fishing at Government Island!)
Government Island also features 1.5 miles of looped hiking trails. The paved path from the parking lot to the boardwalk is wheelchair accessible with well-maintained and mulched trails that are suitable for every age and fitness level. Following the path to the boardwalk leads to a lovely marshland overlook where visitors frequently see wildlife such as Snapping Turtles, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Osprey, and Bald Eagles. Even more surprising and exciting are the multiple manatee sightings that have occurred during the late summer months in recent years.
Government Island is a wildlife photographer’s dream and a birdwatcher’s paradise! Last fall, I had the great pleasure of following and photographing a Pileated Woodpecker for more than an hour! It was an exhilarating chase that I will always remember. I think any bird enthusiast can understand my joy and excitement. Children will delight at attempting to spy the various types of frogs, toads, and turtles (Oh my!) that abound. Government Island is the perfect spot to visit if you are trying to provide outdoor and nature-based learning opportunities for children!
HOW CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON GOVERNMENT ISLAND?
People interested in visiting Government Island should know that it is located in the center of Stafford County, off I-95 exit 143 A at 191 Coal Landing Rd.
I think Government Island is an amazing hidden gem that offers a variety of family fun and friendly educational opportunities! If you’re a resident of the Fredericksburg/Stafford area and are looking for the perfect place to go on the next beautiful spring day that becomes available, then definitely add Government Island to your to-do list!
To get more information about parking, park visiting hours, and more please visit the Official Tour Stafford Virginia webpage at: https://www.tourstaffordva.com/attraction/government-island/
If you want to learn more about the history of Government Island there is another amazing webpage sponsored by the Stafford Virginia Museum & Cultural Center located here: https://staffordcountymuseum.com/artifact/old-capitol-gatepost/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Chase is a self-employed small business owner who has lived in Stafford County for more than 20 years. She is an avid nature enthusiast and amateur photographer who enjoys an active and healthy lifestyle and is an advocate of a natural, holistic approach to spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health, believing that you cannot separate these elements in regard to total health and wellness.