Occoquan Water Trail

Occoquan Water Trail

Tracing a 40-mile route on two tributary waterways of the Chesapeake Bay, paddling adventures await as you explore a vast and changing landscape, spanning 13,000 years of human history, past 10,000 acres of public lands dedicated to resource conservation in northern Virginia. Interpretive exhibits located at eight access points present a tapestry of time and place — past,  present and future — each reveals a different facet of an extraordinary resource.
The 20 mile stretch of the Upper Segment begins on free-flowing, tree-lined Bull Run, which widens as it joins the Occoquan River, opening to an expansive, freshwater lake formed by the Occoquan Reservoir dam. The Lower Segment’s brackish, open waters pass marinas and protected marshlands along the Mason Neck Peninsula, on the wide expanse of the tidal Potomac River.


The Occoquan Water Trail is open year-round.

Access and hours of public launch sites vary; consult individual parks for current information as you plan your trip. The National Wildlife Refuges are not accessible by boat at any time.

(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.)


Many public launch sites have seasonal fees; check with managing agency for current information.


The Occoquan Water Trail provides a range of boating opportunities along the route for human-powered craft, and for motor craft, on the southern segment. Boats are available to rent for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing at several park sites on the route. Bird and wildlife and wildflower observation is outstanding. Public parks along the route offer picnicking, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Historic sites of Gunston Hall and the town of Occoquan can be accessed indirectly from the trail. Swimming and gas powered motors are not permitted on the waters of the reservoir.

Access with public parking can be found at Occoquan, Fountainhead, Bull Run. The Occoquan Water Trail League (OWL) is a volunteer affiliate of the Occoquan Water Trail and NOVA Parks composed of recreational paddlers and others committed to low-impact use, conservation and resource stewardship of our shared waterways.

River Classification

Class I. (Read more about the different levels of River Classifications)

Water Trail Map & Guide

A trail map and guide can be purchased online from Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Headquarters The waterproof paddler's guide traces the scenic waterways of the Occoquan and Potomac rivers in Northern Virginia. The guide comes in two sections- the upper segment of the trail from Bull Run Regional Park to Lake Ridge Community Park and the lower segment from the Occoquan Regional Park to Pohick Bay Regional Park.


Several public parks on the route currently provide public boat launches, parking, restrooms and other visitor amenities, during regular hours. Consult specific sites for current information.


State and federal parks have ADA accessible facilities; other sites will vary.

Main image: Occoquan Water Trail
Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail