On April 13th, 2019, Riverside Preserve was opened to the public. This new nature preserve of 196 acers provides the first public access to the Rappahannock River in Fauquier County. It lies just up Leeds Manor Road off of 211. The land was generously donated by the MacDonald family who have enjoyed it for years and wanted to share it with their neighbors and other outdoor lovers. The tract is permanently protected by a conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Federation. Fauquier County Parks and Recreation will maintain and expand its trail system over time although currently it has 3 loop trails blazed Orange, Yellow and Red that take in the scenes of the Rappahannock River, open meadows, and high forest areas.
The hiking is varied and beautiful and includes the river, feeder streams, large rock formations, hemlock groves, the ruins of old farm structures and heavy equipment, and artisanal springs among forests of sycamore, oak, dogwood, maple, tulip poplar and iron tree. Wildflowers dot the meadows and peeper frogs squeak above the trickle of the Rappahannock. Bring boots because it is a nature preserve and the footing is muddy in places.
There is free public access from dawn to dusk on weekends, although you will need to purchase a permit to visit during the weekdays. At least for now. There are parking areas in the high meadow near the educational shed and another down near the river for small boat access. There are plans to place a kayak/canoe launch soon as part of a Blueways trail that aims to connect the area’s waterways to mirror its Greenways walking/biking trails. These are exciting and welcome additions to Fauquier’s burgeoning outdoor recreation facilities which should also support the growth of ecotourism, local retail and dining, vineyards, and other quality of life benefits that produce tax revenue without unsightly and sprawling development.
The civic-mindedness of the MacDonalds is also notable as the benefit of sharing the county’s natural resources with the people who will most appreciate and enjoy it increases the value far beyond what it would otherwise be. The opportunity to begin to string together river access with Riverside Preserve, Remington, and Kelly’s Ford will allow old sailors and novices a new adventure, paddling up and down the waterways, fishing, exploring, and just breathing clean air and listening to the wind in the trees will surely improve with mental health of those of us burdened with the anxiety of pinging phones and an ever present news cycle of impending doom.
Come out and experience one of the best ‘Natural’ cures for stress and anxiety.
For information on hours, permits and regs, Click Here.
Fauquier's Blueways plan is similar to the one in Loudoun.