Government Island–Stafford, Virginia

November 4, 2012
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Government Island

Government Island, located just off Highway 1 in Stafford, Virginia, is a small peninsula surrounded by marsh lands on one side and by Aquia Creek on the other.  This peninsula was the quarry location used for much of the sandstone in the White House and the US Capitol buildings in nearby D.C., as well as many other famous northern Virginia buildings, tombs, and pathways.

 

Government Island only opened to the public back in 2010, but provides an excellent historic hike along a scenic wetland.  The 1.5 mile loop trail leading to the island is initially a paved trail following along Austin Run as it empties into the marshlands.

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As the paved trail approaches a sharp bend in the Run, the trail becomes a boardwalk and bridge crossing over into open wetlands before approaching the “island” (actually a peninsula surrounded by tidal marsh lands on one side).

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Once on the island, the trail becomes a looping dirt path with numerous roots and rocks.

The trail is really best hiked by continuing straight off the bridge and then making a left along the path.

From here, signs along the trail discuss the history of what was then known as Public Quarry.

The Quarry was initially owned by the Brent family in the area before being selected by a local Stafford raised individual named George Washington selected a committee to construction the District of Columbia. This committee hired Pierre Charles L’Enfant to find his construction materials. In 1791, Brent Island was transferred to L’Enfant and became the quarry for the sandstone to be used.  The reason for its location becomes evident as one hikes the loop around the island.  Its location allowed for easy transport of the quarried rock down to the Potomac and then up to D.C.

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As the hike makes a small climb to the higher elevation of the island, splendid views of the marsh lands and Aquia creek.

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The trail winds along the entire perimeter of the island along an obscured dirt and leaf path, but contains only small elevation changes.  It returns back to the original bridge that entered the island.

Directions:

From Stafford, Virginia and Garrisonville Road:

1.  From Garrisonville Road, turn right and head South of Highway 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway)

2. Drive 6.1 miles on Highway 1 and turn left at the traffic signal onto Coal Landing Road

3.  Drive 0.9 miles along Coal Landing Road/ Barge Road, Government Island parking area is on the left.

Located just off Highway 1 in Stafford, Virginia,

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2 Responses to Government Island–Stafford, Virginia

  1. Jeff Donat on February 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Is it known if there was a gristmill on govt. island? I have an old (1910?) postcard of a “gristmill on government island”
    No postmark or other identification.

  2. Jane Conner on June 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Jeff, I wrote the book about Government Island, “Birthstone of the White House and Capitol.” In all of my research, I never heard of a gristmill on Government Island. Is there anyway that you could scan the picture of both sides of the postcard? I’m so fascinated to find out about this. Thank you so much for posting. Jane Conner

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