Port Royal, VA, on the Rappahannock River, opened a new public access site in 2016. This site includes a fishing pier, viewing areas, and a soft boat launch, as well as interpretive signage about the history of the area and a living shoreline.
This site fills an 18-mile gap in access, straddling the Route 301 bridge. This site is 8 miles from the nearest upstream access and 10 miles from the nearest downstream access and provides access to some of the area’s wonderful recreational opportunities.
The Rappahannock River Watertrail and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail run past the site. These trails have been designed to help the public celebrate the history of the region and explore the incredible natural world. The Port Royal site will provide a way to get on and off of these watertrails.
Additionally, this site is adjacent to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was recently highlighted in the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan as a potential access site. The soft launch allows paddlers to access the refuge by water.
The Conservancy worked with the Friends of the Rappahannock, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the town of Port Royal on this project. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee, and the National Parks Conservation Association’s Freedom to Float program have provided financial resources. This project is a great demonstration of how multiple organizations can work together to improve public access along the tributaries of the Chesapeake.