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Occoquan River Journey

A paddle on the Occoquan River, departing from the Occoquan Regional Park, offers a serene trip and scenic views of the historic town of Occoquan. The water here is generally very calm and offers a fantastic opportunity for first-time paddlers to get out on the water.

The Occoquan Regional Park offers 350 acres of outdoor recreation, complete with hiking trails, athletic fields, a batting cage, picnic shelters, and other amenities.

Water Safety

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.

Image Credit: Mark Plummer

Things to Know

  • River has lots of wildlife: birds of prey, waterfowl, beavers
  • River is tidal, but it is protected. Typical experience is very calm.  
  • Views of historic properties
  • Mason Neck State Park

Navigational Hazards


Marine Forecast

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:

Tidal Information

See the most recent tide information.

Emergency Information

In the event of an emergency, call 911.

Inova Emergency Room, HealthPlex Lorton
9321 Sanger Street
Lorton VA 22079
(703) 982-8324

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (near Occoquan Bay NWR)
2300 Opitz Boulevard
Woodbridge, VA 22191
(703) 523-1000

Facility address:

Occoquan Regional Park
9751 Ox Road
Lorton, VA 22079

Parking & Shuttles

  • Entrance/exit gate: January 1 through March 12, open daily 8 a.m. to dusk. March 13 through November 5, open daily dawn to dusk. November 6 through December 31, open daily 8:00 a.m. to dusk. Gate closed Christmas Day (12/25).  




  • ALWAYS wear a personal flotation device (PFD) properly secured, at all times when participating in paddlesport activities.
  • Always bring a paddle float and water pump for self rescue.
  • A spray skirt is recommended for cold/foul weather.
  • Whether you are renting or bringing your own, make sure that your PFD has a safety whistle that is readily accessible.
  • Wear protective clothing appropriate to the weather, activity, and environment especially sun protection (large brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeved water-appropriate shirt, sunblock lotion). Assume that you will get wet and be mindful that your clothing would be safe to swim in.
  • Footwear: watershoes or similar are a must have for paddlesports. Launch areas and the river can contain abrasive hazards that can cut feet. Footwear that protects toes and can be walked in when wet is necessary. Flip-flops and sandals are not sufficient or appropriate.
  • Water: Bring water in bottles than can be secured to your boat. Bring more water than you expect to need and drink it throughout your paddling journey.


Trail History

In writing about his expedition up the Potomac River in June 1608, Captain John Smith noted his friendly reception by the “Toags” (Dogue), the native people of the Occoquan River. On the lower Occoquan River near Belmont Bay, Smith and his men are thought to have visited the Dogue’s main town, Tauxenent—a site believed to be between Occoquan Regional Park and Massey Creek.

Prior to English settlement in Virginia, the Occoquan valley was a major settlement to the Algonquian Dogue Indians who named the area “Occoquan” which means ‘at the end of the water.’ The Occoquan river, in proximity to the greater Potomac, was ideal for trade and transportation. The Anglo-Americans of Virginia also realized Occoquan’s ideal location as a trade hub. A shipping landing built in 1729 and a tobacco warehouse built in 1736 catalyzed the development of industries like forges, water grist mills, tolling mills, saw mills, storehouses, and a bake house. By 1755, Occoquan had become a major industrial town. One of the first automated grist mills in America, the Merchants’ Mill, was built in 1759. In 1804, the town of Occoquan was formally established.