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Westmoreland State Park
Virginia State Park
One of the Northern Neck's major destinations is Westmoreland State Park, a large (1300-acre) Potomac park offering canoeing areas, hiking trails, and unusual geological formations. Horsehead Cliffs, where cliffs rise 150 feet above the Potomac shoreline, has fossils including shark teeth, whalebones, and other artifacts. The Potomac shoreline stretches for 1.5 miles along the park.
In prehistoric times, the ocean stretched all the way to the fall line Great Falls, above Washington on the Potomac. The cliffs developed from sediments that fell to the sea floor--thus explaining the abundance of shark teeth, whale remains, even sea crocodiles. The soft sediments preserved many of the bones and teeth.
Scientists believe that about 2 million years ago, an ice age began and the polar ice caps began to expand. As a result, the sea level began to recede and fell to a point even lower than it is today. The Chesapeake Bay was turned into a river valley (of the Susquehanna). When the ice age ended (about 20,000 years ago), the ice melted and sea levels rose rapidly, flooding the river valleys and creating the Bay. Erosion, a natural process, continues to change the face of the lower Potomac. The cliffs of Westmoreland Park are eroding at a rate of about two feet a year. Similar erosion can be noted across the river at St. Clement's Island, which is a fraction of the size it was when discovered by the early settlers of Maryland. Trails at Westmoreland State Park traverse the Big Meadow marsh, which is fed by a flow of fresh water from a spring. Bird life is extensive in the park, including the bald eagle. According to the National Audubon Society, there are approximately 10 bald eagle nests in Westmoreland County. The Big Meadow Nature Trail is a self-guided trail featuring an observation tower that overlooks Yellow Swamp.
A swimming beach, Olympic-size pool, boat launching area, grocery store, cabins, and visitor center make this one of the best-equipped parks along the lower Potomac. The park offers 3 large campgrounds, 25 housekeeping cabins, and 6 overnight cabins. The housekeeping cabins are mainly rented on a weekly basis and require advance registration. Two-night reservations are available on a limited basis. The overnight cabins are available by reservation as well, but have sleeping quarters only, no kitchen or bathroom. Trails include wetland, forest, and meadow routes. Camping areas are open from March through December 4th. Visitors can also rent boats, including paddleboats and rowboats, for leisurely trips along the Potomac's shore.