I like to take advantage of the opportunities long holiday weekends provide to venture out from D.C.’s city limits and visit some of the places in the metro area which are not as easily travelled to during a workday lunch hour bike ride. For this Labor Day weekend, I decided to go for an early morning ride and visit Occoquan Regional Park.
Administered by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, Occoquan Regional Park is located at 9751 Ox Road, in Fairfax County, Virginia (MAP). It is situated on the banks of the Occoquan River, a tributary of the Potomac River, and is directly across from the Town of Occoquan, which is in neighboring Prince William County. The park is composed of approximately 400 acres of recreational space which is comprised of dense forests as well as open spaces, and includes picnic shelters and gazebos, soccer and baseball fields, volleyball courts, a batting cage, and a marina with a fishing pier, sundeck, boat launch and kayak rentals. And although it is not mentioned on the park’s website or in any guidebooks, it is one of my favorite places to pick wild blackberries.
The park also contains several attractions of historical significance, including preserved Civil War arsenals, the site of the Women Suffrage Prison at Occoquan Workhouse, and the Lorton Prison Beehive Brick Kiln. The prison was in operation in 1917, and housed women who dared to speak out in favor of the right to vote for women. It even house women picketers who were arrested in front of The White House. And the kiln was in operation from the turn of the century until the late 1960’s, and was a primary local source of the red bricks used in constructing many of the historic buildings which can be seen throughout Northern Virginia. I hope to visit these places and learn more about them in the future.
And last but not least, the park contains not only a paved cycling trail, but is also one of the few places in the region to serve as a trailhead for and site within multiple routes of regional and national significance. These include: Park lands, trails and associated waters that are part of the Fairfax Cross-County Trail; the diverse, braided network of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail; an historic journey commemorated by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail; and the Occoquan Water Trail, recognized as both a National Recreation Trail and part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network.
With all that is has to offer, Occoquan Regional Park serves not only as a destination in and of itself, but as a starting point as well.