Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) is excited to be working with an excellent coalition of partners to expand public access in the headwaters region through the creation of an Upper Rappahannock River Water Trail. FOR believes that public access, so people can experience the river by foot or by boat, is one of the first steps to inspiring more public engagement and creating new river stewards.

For years there have been extensive water trails in Spotsylvania, Stafford, Fredericksburg, and throughout the tidal river basin, but there are still many sections of the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers that lack public access. For many years, the only way to access the upper Rappahannock was through the Kelly’s Ford Boat Launch in Culpeper County. The next closest public access was over 30 miles away which requires an overnight commitment. This past spring, the Fauquier Riverside Preserve opened and now provides the first riverside park in Fauquier County and another great way for the public to experience the Rappahannock River. This is the first step in expanding public access to the region.

FOR is excited to announce a recent grant award of $45,000 funded by the PATH Foundation to continue to expand public access in Fauquier, Culpeper, and Rappahannock Counties.  This grant will provide for the development of a strategic plan for an Upper Rappahannock River Water Trail, including site studies, water trail maps, interpretive signage, and more. 

“We are very fortunate to have so much support for this initiative to expand public access,” said Bryan Hofmann, FOR’s Deputy Director. “The Rappahannock River is such an important resource and these communities deserve to have access for recreation.” 

In the coming months, stakeholders will work to identify a series of locations for new public river access that would provide approachable ways for people to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of the river. This includes opportunities for trails, paddling, fishing, bird watching and more. 

“The Rappahannock River flows 184 miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay and should be accessible for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Hofmann.  

Keep an eye out for more updates as we get to work on the Upper Rappahannock River Water Trail!