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.
Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate such trails. The Chesapeake Conservancy, National Park Service, and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials.
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.
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.
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.