Grab a paddle — we’re getting on the water, in search of prizes. Yes, prizes! The incentive is part of Virginia State Parks’ Wandering Waters Paddle Quest initiative to encourage more people to explore the lakes, bays, rivers, and creeks within the state parks system.
Paddle Quest launched in May and is the brainchild of Sammy Zambon, an avid paddler and visitor experience specialist for Virginia State Parks. Inspired by the popular Trail Quest program, which was created to get visitors out on the more than 500 miles of hiking, biking, and equine trails within Virginia’s state parks, Zambon set out to devise a paddling initiative. The goal was to encourage visitors to see our parks from the water, either by way of a self-guided or ranger-led paddle.
“From the water, you’re looking back at the land, you’re lower to the surface. It can provide a very different view and experience,” says Zambon. “The quietness of a paddle craft allows you to get closer to wildlife than you can when you’re hiking.”
Of Virginia’s 41 state parks, 31 have water access and are a part of the Paddle Quest program. Of these, 28 state parks offer ranger-led paddles, like sunset and twilight paddles, and 19 state parks have rentals so you can get out on the water on your own. Rentals range from kayaks and canoes to rowboats and stand-up paddleboards, depending on the state park. The program is free minus the cost of rentals. Paddlers may bring their own equipment at no charge.
Participants earn prizes at intervals, starting when they paddle at five parks. Prizes include stickers, patches, mesh gear bags, and a cellphone dry bag, as well as a Master Paddler certificate once they have seen all 31 parks from the water. Visitors log paddles on the Virginia State Parks website. To date, more than 500 people have registered for the program.
In Northern Virginia, four state parks offer paddling, including Widewater in Stafford, Lake Anna in Spotsylvania, Leesylvania in Woodbridge, and Mason Neck in Lorton. All offer ranger-led paddles, and three of the four offer watercraft rentals (only Lake Anna does not at this time).
Feature image by Virginia State Parks
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