Virginia’s Neabsco Creek flows through a highly developed stretch of Prince William County before widening into wetlands that stretch to meet the Potomac—but that wasn’t always the case. The expanse of wetlands are actually a relatively recent consequence of the area being completely logged by the late 1800s. Without trees to protect the surrounding soil, extensive runoff and siltation filled the creek, creating wetlands and resulting in the expanse of wildlife habitat that can be seen from a three-quarter-mile boardwalk that opened in June of 2019.
The Neabsco Creek Boardwalk was created at the same time that the county combined multiple parks to form 300-acre Neabsco Regional Park. As part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the park can be reached easily from other protected green spaces in the area, such as two national wildlife refuges—Featherstone and Occoquan Bay.
Boardwalks like the one at Neabsco Creek are one of many ways to enjoy the outdoors—a role shared by new boat ramps, paddle launches, fishing platforms and other structures being created across the watershed. Collectively, these amenities mark progress toward the Chesapeake Bay Program’s goal of increasing public access sites. In 2010, for example, there were only 1,139 total access sites in the region, but by the start of 2020 there were 1,333, with new ones still being added every year.
Near sunset on a weekend in the boardwalk’s second September of operation, the trailhead parking lot was full. The path was teeming with adults, children and baby strollers. Some pounded the path quickly, jogging laps for exercise while others walked quietly, taking in the view. When a blue heron landed on the railing and then ducked into the spatterdock below, a dozen people quickly paused their journeys to form a watch party.
Dominique Lewis and Jessica Quinn of Woodbridge visited with their two-year-old son Kaidyn, hoisting the toddler to the railing to get a better view.
“I actually discovered this shortly after it was built,” Lewis said. “I’ve been coming here just to walk around and take a breather just from life in general.”
Though Lewis visits several times a week after work, the family’s walk at twilight was Quinn’s first visit. By the time they arrived, most of the day’s visitors had already come and gone.
“It’s very beautiful,” Quinn said. “It’s very quiet.”
If you’re looking to explore the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, Find Your Chesapeake is a resource to get your adventure started.