Set on a peninsula that juts out into the Potomac River in Virginia, Mason Neck showcases the rich history and diverse wildlife of the Chesapeake Bay region. This area has long been an exceptional place to enjoy the Potomac’s natural beauty – in particular, its thriving bald eagle population. But the bald eagles here haven’t always been protected.
In the 1960s, bald eagle populations were rapidly declining across the nation due to habitat loss and the pesticide DDT. After two bald eagle nests were spotted on Mason Neck in 1965, Virginia began buying land parcels to create Mason Neck State Park, which opened to the public in 1985. The state park and neighboring Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge cover approximately 4,000 acres, protecting habitats for eagles and countless other wildlife species.
Paddling is one of the best ways to truly appreciate Mason Neck’s deep woods and lush brackish marshes. The calm, sheltered waters of Belmont Bay and Kanes Creek beckon you to explore, relax, and enjoy what nature has to offer here on Mason Neck.
While there are no specific hazards for this trip, it's important to pay careful attention to tides, wind and weather conditions.
Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water 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 rivers. The National Park Service, Chesapeake Conservancy and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.
We STRONGLY suggested that you review the marine forecast ahead of heading out for a paddling trip. To review the forecast for this paddle trip, visit:
There are three parking lots. The closest parking lot to the kayak launch is in front of the visitor center. Parking is $5 for Virginia residents and $7 for non-residents. The park is open from 8:00 a.m. until dusk.
There is a universally accessible restroom facility in the picnic area.
The Mason Neck peninsula came into its current form when sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay stabilized 3,000 years ago. However, the cliffs of the Bay’s middle-western shore have eroded up to 300 feet inland from the time of Captain John Smith’s 1607-08 exploration of the area.
Although Native Americans visited Mason Neck as early as 9,000 years ago, it didn’t become an important settlement area for Native Americans until approximately 3,000 years ago, which lasted until the early 1700s.
There are 25 known Native American sites in Mason Neck. One of the most notable tribes that settled in the Occoquan and Mason Neck areas was the Moyumpse or “Doeg” tribe.
Captain John Smith mapped the Native American settlements of Mason Neck, calling the area “Tauxenent” when he sailed up the Potomac in 1608. When Smith explored this area, there was an island in Belmont Bay that was occupied by the Moyumpse tribe. Although the island has subsequently eroded, an area of shallow water near Kanes Creek indicates the island’s former location.