Westmoreland State Park
Located along the Potomac River between the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall, Westmoreland State Park is one of the leading outdoor attractions in Virginia’s Northern Neck Peninsula. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the height of the Great Depression, Westmoreland opened on June 1, 1936. The park was one of the original six state parks in Virginia and several original structures remain in use today. The park covers 1,321 acres and offers hiking, boating, camping, swimming, and other forms of recreation. Westmoreland State Park's most famous attraction is the fossil beach where visitors can find and keep fossilized shark teeth.
Backstory and Context
Virginia witnessed the creation of its first national park when the Shenandoah National Park opened to visitors in 1924. Shenandoah became so successful and welcomed so many visitors that Virginia passed legislation for the creation of its own state park system two years later. The legislation allowed for the creation of the Virginia State Commission on Conservation and Development to oversee the development of the state park system. William E. Carson served as the commission’s first chairman. Carson proposed that the first state park to be located on Virginia’s coast to honor Virginia’s diverse geology and serve as a companion to the Shenandoah National Park. In 1930, the commission hired the British landscape architect Bob E. Burson to assist in the development of the Virginia State Parks system.
After conducting tedious research and many site visits over a period of two years, in 1932 Burson proposed the creation of six parks to serve as the core of the fledgling Virginia State Parks system. Each of the six parks would represent the four largest regions of the state: Seashore State Park (now known as First Landing) and Westmoreland State Park in the Tidewater region, Staunton River State Park and Fairy Stone State Park in the Piedmont region, Hungry Mother State Park in the Valley of Virginia, and Douthat State Park in the Mountain and Valley Region. With the help of Burson, the Commission realized that the state park system should promote tourism in Virginia in addition to providing recreational opportunities for residents.
As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program during the Great Depression, funding and labor opportunities for public infrastructure became available to state governments. With guidance from the National Park Service, many states, including Virginia, took advantage of this opportunity and began construction on their own state parks. On October 11, 1933, the Virginia State Commission on Conservation and Development purchased 1,266.5 acres of land in Westmoreland County on the Potomac River between the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall, former home of the Lee family. Three days later, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 287, Camp SP-19 of Camp Dix, New Jersey arrived and began construction on Westmoreland State Park. The CCC built everything inside the park, from the water system to the buildings and trails. Despite the park being officially opened on June 1, 1936, construction continued on site until 1942 when the United States government disbanded the CCC. In 2005, Westmoreland State Park was added to both the National Register of Historic Places as a national historic district and to the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Westmoreland State Park currently boasts 1,321 acres of Tidewater woodland, extends nearly 1.5 miles along the Potomac River, and offers an abundance of recreation opportunities, such as swimming, hiking, kayaking, fishing, bird watching, festivals, and workshops. The park also provides three options for overnight lodging in the form of cabins, RV sites, and tent sites. Several of the park’s original structures remain intact. The park’s most popular tourist attraction is its Fossil Beach, where visitors can search for and keep fossils that date back as far as 20 million years ago.
General Information. Westmoreland State Park. September 06, 2018. http://www.dcr.Virginia.gov/state-parks/westmoreland#general_information.
Westmoreland State Park. Outdoors and Sports. June 20, 2017. September 06, 2018. https://www.Virginia.org/listings/OutdoorsAndSports/WestmorelandStatePark/.
Westmoreland State Park. Westmoreland County. September 06, 2018. https://www.westmoreland-county.org/westmoreland-state-park.
Westmoreland State Park. The Cultural Landscape Foundation. September 06, 2018. https://tclf.org/landscapes/westmoreland-state-park.