In Hampton, Virginia, the Waterwalk opened its first stretch in 2018, promising an easily accessible 2.25-mile linear park. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
The boardwalk at Patuxent River Park overlooks wetlands in Prince George’s County, Md., and sometimes hosts wildlife itself, such as this five-lined skink. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
Accokeek Boardwalk is part of Piscataway Park in Prince George's County and offers views of wetlands feeding into the Potomac River. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
Goodyear Swamp Sanctuary in Cooperstown, N.Y., is home to snapping turtles as well as researchers from the SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station, including research director Bill Harman. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
Millbrook Marsh Nature Center in State College, Pa., is a 62-acre park featuring a two-acre calcareous fen, a rare habitat fed by groundwater seeping through limestone bedrock, that supports specialized plants. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
A winter flock of red-winged blackbirds flies above Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
A boardwalk visited by a pileated woodpecker is blocked by fallen trees near Chenango Lake at Chenango Valley State Park in Broome County, N.Y. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
An eastern painted turtle swims at Tuckahoe Creek Park in Henrico, Va. in 2018. The park’s 500-foot boardwalk was completed in 2016. (Photo by Kaitlyn Dolan/Chesapeake Bay Program)
In Hopewell, Virginia, the 1,700-foot Riverwalk along the Appomattox River will eventually connect City Park to the City Marina, where pedestrians can continue on to the 24-acre Riverside Park Stormwater Greenway. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
Dutch Gap Conservation Area in Henrico County, Virginia, added a boardwalk and accessible paddle launch in 2017. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)
by Will Parson
January 09, 2020
There are more ways to get on the water than you might realize. With parks adding boardwalks to their shorelines and wetlands, you can watch for wildlife even in the winter—when you might not want to take out a canoe or kayak on frigid rivers and streams.
Often, newly constructed boardwalks are paired with an ADA-accessible paddle launch or fishing pier. But access to the water isn’t limited to opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming. Sometimes the view is the biggest draw.
These efforts contribute to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s goals for increasing public access across the watershed. By 2025, our partners are committed to adding 300 such sites. As of 2018, the Chesapeake watershed has seen the addition of 176 new boat ramps, fishing piers, boardwalks and more.
We paired a selection of boardwalks with the views of wildlife they have enabled across the watershed.
About Will Parson - Will produces digital stories for the Chesapeake Bay Program. He studied ecology and evolution at University of California, San Diego. He reported on water and the environment as a graduate student at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication, and worked at newspapers in New England before landing in Maryland.