Great Day Trips 2011: Birdwatch on Canoes

Lorton’s Mason Neck State Park is an ideal place to paddle calm waters

Mason Neck State Park offers calm waters for canoeing. And you may spot egrets, ospreys, and bald eagles.
Photograph by Babsona via Flickr/Creative Commons, Illustrations by Alli Arnold

The Day’s Adventure: On a quiet peninsula on the Potomac River, Mason Neck State Park in Lorton is an ideal place to paddle calm waters and see a good assortment of songbirds, raptors, and migratory and shore birds.

Lay of the Land: The park rents canoes and kayaks and offers 2½-hour guided trips on both ($15 to $20 a person). On the shore, it’s easy to spot great blue herons, ospreys, ducks, geese, egrets, and bald eagles. Trips are Saturday at 9 and 4, Sunday at 9, April through October. Eagles are more often sighted in the morning. You see so many birds because the 1,825-acre park backs up to 2,277-acre Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge. No canoeing in the refuge.

Insider Tip: Twilight tours run in the state park on the Friday evenings of full moons. The west-facing shore on the small bay makes for spectacular sunsets.

Rest and Refuel: Glory Days Grill, a regional chain, serves hearty pub fare for hungry paddlers. Large flat-screen TVs let you catch up on the day’s games. Try a steak, a 4 sandwich, or a burger. It also has salads and a gluten-free menu.

Speed Dial:
Mason Neck State Park
Lorton; 703-339-2380
Reservations are required for all tours.

Glory Days Grill
9459 Lorton Market St., Lorton; 703-372-1770

More Great Day Trips >>Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter