Editor’s note: No need for a plane ticket. Put that passport away. This story is part of a series that features regional attractions outside of the Williamsburg area that can be driven to on a tank of gas or less. Buckle up and hit the road.
This week we head to York River State Park–where visitors can hunt for fossils.
Taskinas Creek and the surrounding watershed totaling 525 acres, is one of four sites along the York River designated as a Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Cooperatively managed by the park and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the reserve is the first of its kind in the state and offers added protection and research opportunities.
With fossil hunting, family events and 30 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback-riding, York River State Park is a gold mine for the outdoor enthusiast.
As the name suggests, the park is located on the York River and is known for its rare and delicate estuarine environment, where freshwater and saltwater meet to create a rich habitat for marine and plant life.
On the water
A boat ramp, 360-foot fishing pier and fresh and saltwater fishing spots make it a great location for anglers. Freshwater fishermen will find bluegill and largemouth bass in Woodstock Pond.
Fishing from the pier will get you catfish, croaker, spot, perch, flounder and other species. Crabs are also plentiful. The pier is licensed, so no need for a salt-water license; however, if you are fishing from a boat or from the shore, a Virginia saltwater fishing license is required. Taskinas Creek, which has catfish and white perch, requires either a valid saltwater or freshwater Virginia fishing license.
Another way to enjoy the water is by kayak or canoe. You can bring your own or rent one onsite when in season. If you’d like a more structured jaunt on the river, the park offers many guided kayak/canoe trips. In the morning, you could participate in the Paddle Thru the Past trip, where you will learn about the role the river played in important periods of America’s past, or you could pick an evening canoe trip between May and October and enjoy the constellations, planets and other features of the night sky.
Back on land history is abound
A visitor center offers displays that focus on the history, use and preservation of the York River and its marshes, as well as wildlife found in the river and the park. You can also learn about Croaker Landing – an archaeological site within the park that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site contains evidence of Native American habitation from 1,000 B.C. – A.D. 1600.
One of the biggest draws, however, is Fossil Beach. Students, families and out of town visitors often travel to the park just to hunt for them.
Start at the visitor’s center and grab a trail guide then hike your way there. A wooden staircase takes you to the water’s edge where you can begin your search for fossils. You may even come across the Virginia state fossil – the Chesapecten Jeffersonius – also known as the fossilized form of an extinct scallop. It’s best to go during low tide to find the most fossils.
Fall is an excellent time for locals to visit the park as it’s a little less crowded and there are plenty of activities. A favorite is the Ghost Trail Hayride held on the weekends at the of October. It’s spooky and fun, and it fills up fast, so check out the Park’s website for event registration information.
York River State Park information
The Park size is 2,531 acres complete with 30 trails. There is no overnight camping, but plenty of fun family activities.