Mason Neck State Park

Mason Neck State Park

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Just a short drive from Washington, D.C., this Northern Virginia park offers many outdoor activities and programs. It has hiking trails, 3 miles of paved multi-use trails, a large picnic area, a playground, a car-top canoe launch and a visitor center. Canoe, kayak and bicycle rentals are also available. Bird watching, especially for American bald eagles, and guided canoe trips of Kane's Creek and Belmont Bay are favorites with park visitors. The park's wetlands, forest, open water, ponds and open fields make it ideal for environmental study and wildlife observation.

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Hours

The park is open from 8 am to dusk, year-round with most visiting from Memorial Day to labor Day

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

Parking/Admission: $4 per car on weekdays, $5 per car on weekends, $12 per bus.

History

During the War of 1812, the British navy sailed by Mason Neck several times.

British Capt. James Gordon initially sailed up the Potomac River in August 1814 with his eyes on Washington. But the British grounded several of their ships and suffered through a violent storm.

In Alexandria, the British convinced residents to surrender and spent several days looting the city’s public stores and warehouses.

As the squadron sailed back down the Potomac, American troops fired at it from the White House Gun Battery, located on the bluffs of Gunston Cove across from Mason Neck.

Today the battery site is on the grounds of Fort Belvoir.

Between September 2 and 5, fighting between the battery and British ships escalated, until the American troops were forced to withdraw.
 

Activities

More than six miles of unpaved hiking trails and three miles of paved multi-use trails wind through the park providing a glimpse of nature by the bay. Elevated walkways allow visitors to explore some of the marsh areas in the park. Bikes can be rented at the visitor center.

For those with a valid Virginia fishing license, fresh and brackish water fishing are available. Car-top launch facilities are available; however there are no facilities for trailer launching. The picnic areas include drinking water, grills, restroom facilities, picnic tables, and a playground.

Park interpretive programs include: beachcombing, pond studies, birdwatching, canoe trips, fishing clinic, active volunteer program, night hikes, teacher workshops, and evening programs. The Junior Ranger program is a three-day activity for children ages 6 to 11. It offers a hands-on environmental education experience that promotes stewardship and strong conservation, recreation and protection ethics. For those who like to hike, there are more than three miles of hiking trails that wind through the park providing a glimpse of nature by the bay. Elevated walkways allow visitors to explore some of the marsh areas in the park.

Facilities

The Environmental Education Center provides an opportunity for teachers to conduct environmental studies in natural settings. In addition, the park participates in Virginia's State Parks: Your Backyard Classroom program.The Elizabeth Hartwell Environmental Education Center features exhibits on the plant and animal life of the area, local history, hands-on activities, a resource library, volunteer exhibits and roving interpretive displays.

Car-top boat launch facilities available; no facilities for trailer launching. From April through October, rent a kayak or canoe for an hour or all day to explore Belmont Bay or Kane's Creek. Bikes can be rented at the visitor center.

Accessibility

Picnic area and restrooms are accessible. Playground is fully accessible. The visitor center is fully accessible. There are six handicap parking spaces. The park office is also accessible.  A fully accessible paved hiking trail has breathtaking views of Belmont Bay. The trail is about 300 yards long and terminates at the accessible observation platform overlooking the bay.

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