Gloucester has a state park to call its own in Machicomoco State Park, a mix of woodlands and waterfront with so much to do you won’t be able to fit it all in during one visit.
Machicomoco means special gathering place in the Algonquin language and this restorative respite offers ample opportunity for that, whether it’s just you and a spouse or friend or extended family. If you prefer a solo escape, you couldn’t have picked a better spot. With fall approaching, temperatures will be just right to linger for as long as you’d like. It’s easy to lose yourself in your own thoughts or in the 645 acres of nature’s bounty.
If you enjoy paddling, BYO — kayak, paddle board, canoe and life vest, of course. The park at 3601 Timberneck Farm Road in Hayes doesn’t offer any rental equipment just yet — that’s a possibility moving forward — and you’ll have to hand carry. The ADA accessible, car-top launch access point spills you into Poplar Creek surrounded by the Catlett Islands. Park 650 feet from the drop-off point, and be prepared to take your boat or board on the 350-feet walk to the pier. No motorized boats or launches from trailers are permitted.
It’s best to pack sunscreen and insect repellent, too. The water is relatively calm, so beginner paddlers won’t have a problem. The park overlooks the York River; keep your eye out for wildlife. It’s a ideal place to birdwatch and even spot the occasional bald eagle. You’ll be surrounded by trees, so the only sounds you hear will be natural ones save for your paddles gliding through the water.
An interpretive area is the heart of the park. Honoring the diminished history of the Native Americans distinguishes this park from the 42 others in Virginia. It includes a timeline, a map etched in stone of all the historic and current communities, and an historic home undergoing restoration. The park is an immersive learning experience, much of it exploring the confederacy between the Powhatan and Algonquian Indians. You’ll be following in the footsteps of Chief Powhatan and other tribal leaders when you visit. Rather than just reading about history, you live it. Machicomoco is an authentic outdoor history book that engages all the senses.
You can follow one of the trails from the interpretive area — a forest trail sends you deeper into the woods — or travel the state park loop, roughly 3 miles. The park features more than 6 miles of hiking trails. It’s a great place to bike, too. Keep your eye out for deer and turkey and other wildlife indigenous to the area.
If you’re into camping, Machicomoco provides RV sites, tent sites and three yurts. Electricity and water are available for a fee. They’re spacious but far enough from each other that you’ll have plenty of privacy. Each of the yurts is surrounded by a deck. Reservations in advance is a good idea.
If you have a Virginia saltwater license, you can fish at the floating slips located on Timberneck Creek.
Just 15 minutes from Gloucester Village, Machicomoco State Park is 10 miles downriver from the former village, Werowocomoco, the home to Chief Powhatan and his daughter, Pocahontas.
Cars must pay a $5 entry. The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk.