When you paddle along the shoreline of Westmoreland State Park, you can feel like you’re going back in time. Stunning sandstone cliffs rise 100 to 150 feet above the Potomac River’s quiet waters, and the beaches are strewn with shells, shark teeth, and other fossils from millions of years ago, when these cliffs were covered by a shallow sea. The cliffs are still constantly changing due to erosion from wind, rain, and ice.
Although these open Potomac waters can be challenging for beginner paddlers to explore on their own, Westmoreland State Park offers a great option that allows everybody to get out on the water: affordable guided kayak trips throughout the week in summer for all levels to check out the park’s fossils and nature.
Trespassing is not permitted on the beaches below Horsehead Cliffs, and there are “no trespassing” signs posted here. Erosion from the cliffs presents considerable danger.
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:
In an emergency, dial 911
Nearest hospital: Riverside Tappahannock Hospital (618 Hospital Rd., Tappahannock, VA 22560): (804) 443-3311
There is a large parking area by the boat launch. Parking is $5 for Virginia residents and $7 for non-residents. On weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day, admission for non-residents is $9. The park is open from dawn to dusk.
Restrooms are available at the visitor center (open 24 hours a day), pool, park office, conference center, and campgrounds.
Westmoreland State Park is situated between the birthplaces of two significant American historical figures. To the west stands the birthplace of George Washington, and to the immediate east stands Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee.
The park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a program designed by the federal government to help alleviate unemployment. Most of the roads and trails at this park were dug originally by hand by the CCC. The park also features cabins, picnic areas, and campgrounds built during this time period, all built as part of the New Deal.
Horsehead Cliffs, another notable park feature, is 150 feet high in some places. Fifteen million years ago, scientists theorize that the sediments which now constitute Horsehead Cliffs originally constituted the bottom of a shallow inland sea, which perhaps stretched to Richmond. Fossil Beach, which can be found beneath these cliffs, has been formed by ongoing erosion, and is full of shark teeth, whale ribs, and other fossils. These fossils have been locked inside Horsehead Cliffs for millions of years.