Government Island

“This was once the nation’s most famous quarry.”

Government Island is our go-to hiking spot for company and newcomers. First of all, it’s FREE and mostly stroller friendly! And, the trail is mostly shaded–perfect for hot summer days. We’ve been going here since the boardwalk trail opened over ten years ago. (Updated 11/5/2022)

See the source image

Government Island is a historic peninsula in Stafford. It was “utilized by Native Americans for millennia, and purchased by the federal government in 1791.” It was originally name Brent’s Island or Wiggington’s Island.

This island boasts a 1.5 mile trail. The lollipop trail is divided into three different segments–an asphalt trail, a wooden boardwalk, and a wood chip trail. The first two trail segments are definitely wheelchair accessible and lead to the loop wood chip trail. This trail has some large rocks and small hills. Parts of it can be a bumpy ride for strollers. We’ve found the best luck with jogger strollers.

The 17-acre park is a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife. The elevated boardwalk allows visitors to explore a nature trail through wetlands and woods. Sometimes we’ve seen people fishing in the creeks.

Asphalt Portion of Trail
Boardwalk Portion
Wood Chip Trail
This picture was taken 10 years ago after our 2nd visit to Government Island.

My kids’ favorite spot is the quarry. You can see the marks in the rock from where the enslaved and masons excavated the rock. My kids love climbing up on the big rocks. Hold onto your little ones and don’t let them get too close to the edge. We always take a little break and let the kids run around here.

“As early as 1694, stone was quarried from this site for use as architectural trim in Colonial America. Government Island’s unique stone was used in the original construction of both the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Aquia sandstone from this quarry was favored for its bright color, fine-grained quality and for ease in intricate carving. It could be carved without splitting.

“The federal government purchased Brent’s Island for the purpose of constructing the President’s House (later referred to as the White House) and the Untied States Capitol. Extensive quantities of freestone were extracted from this site from 1791 through the 1820s.

“George Mason and George Washington were two of the quarry’s most prominent clients. Government Island sandstone was also used for door and window trim, foundations, grave markers, churches, plantation homes, and other prominent buildings.” ~Sign at entrance

In 1791, when the government purchased Brent’s Island, one acre was not part of this purchase. That one acre had been sold in 1786 to Robert Steuart, a stone mason from Baltimore. He marked his parcel’s border with four stone boundary markers. The largest remains and is clearly marked with his initials, “R.S.”. When visiting Government Island, see if you can find it.

Government Island is a scenic heritage trail, and also on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

THINGS TO KNOW:

Address: 191 Coal Landing Road Stafford, VA 22554 (Take Exit 140)

Parking is limited and can be hard to find on weekends. There’s a port-o-potty in the parking lot.

Operating Hours:
Mid-March through October 31: Monday – Sunday, 8 am – 8 pm;
November 1 through Mid-March: Monday – Sunday, 8 am – 5:30 pm

Dog-friendly: Yes!

Bring: Water & snacks

Website: Government Island – Tour Stafford Virginia (tourstaffordva.com)

We usually stop at Pets Plus after visiting Government Island. Pets Plus is a full-service pet store with puppies, exotic animals, reptiles, and fish. It’s like a mini zoo.

The kids love looking at all the different animals and choosing a dog to hold. (Not sure if the store is still allowing this with Covid-19 or not.)

Location: 2610 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Stafford, VA 22554 (~15 miles from Fredericksburg)

Hours: 8:00 AM — 8:00 PM M-Sat and 10 AM – 6 PM Sundays

Government Island is also less than a 15-minute drive from Crow’s Nest Natural Preserve. It’s 15 miles from Widewater State Park.

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